Over the past couple of games, the New York Jets offensive line has actually improved.
The pass protection has been excellent all around and certain players have even made strides in the run game, like rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker and center Connor McGovern. There has been one clear weak link though, right guard Greg Van Roten.
‘GVR’ has been pathetic in every aspect of blocking in 2021, and considering that’s his job, many fans have voiced their confusion as to why he’s still employed. The interior O-lineman ranked 56th in pass-block win rate and 54th in run-block win rate before the Week 6 bye according to ESPN Stats & Info. Pro Football Focus has also credited him with allowing three sacks and 21 quarterback pressures on the season.
For the sake of Zach Wilson and the development of this offense, Joe Douglas must replace Van Roten at the trade deadline.
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Perfect Candidate Has Emerged
ESPN’s NFL Nation of reporters joined forces to compile a list of available trade deadline targets for all 32 franchises. Jets beat reporter Rich Cimini suggested Marcus Maye as New York’s potential trade chip, for example, which should come as no surprise.
More intriguing was who might be on the trade block around the league. One name jumped out at interior offensive line, guard/center Austin Blythe.
The six-year professional was a three-year starter with the Los Angeles Rams before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he’s been stuck behind Joe Thuney and two breakout rookies in 2021. Chiefs beat reporter Adam Teicher wrote:
Blythe has been inactive for each of the first six games, and the prospects of him getting into a game aren’t good with rookie Creed Humphrey playing so well. But he might be of interest to a team that needs help at an interior line position. He also can play guard.
Trey Smith has also exceeded expectations for KC at right guard, leaving no immediate spot for Blythe, who started at GVR’s position for two seasons from 2018-19 before transitioning to center.
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Blythe Offers Versatility & Consistency at Guard
During his two seasons at right guard with the Rams, Blythe only allowed three sacks in 31 games according to PFF. As we mentioned above, Van Roten has already surrendered three during his five starts in 2021.
Blythe was particularly solid in 2018, with 70.3 run-blocking grades and 73.1 marks in pass protection. He took a step back in 2019 before switching further inside. At center, the former Ram excelled as a run-blocker but struggled against the rush allowing five sacks and 31 quarterback pressures.
I mention this because Blythe seems to be a more natural fit at right guard and that’s where he’d play with the Jets. Here he is on an outside zone “drag” — a staple of this Mike LaFleur rushing attack.
Of course, if McGovern were to get injured, the versatility would also provide another option at center besides Dan Feeney. That could come in handy if the Jets are ever in a pinch.
Douglas’ reconstructed offensive line failed Sam Darnold and so far, it’s failed Wilson too. This unit has made improvements, however, they just need to cut ties with the anchor that’s weighing them down.