The New York Jets certainly didn’t get their bang for their buck in 2020.
After signing free-agent center Connor McGovern to a three-year $27 million deal with $18 million of that guaranteed, Gang Green had huge expectations.
Those expectations were met with incredible amounts of disappointment.
The Jets offensive line ranked No. 29 in the NFL by PFF last season which was only above the LA Chargers, New York Giants, and the Cincinnati Bengals:
“They allowed pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 28% of their dropbacks — the worst rate in the NFL. The line wasn’t creating many lanes in the run game, either. The Jets averaged just 1.1 yards per carry before contact per rushing attempt in 2020 (30th).”
Despite having opportunities to improve the position both in the 2021 NFL draft (Creed Humphrey out of Oklahoma) and in free agency (Corey Linsley formerly of the Green Bay Packers), they opted against it.
There’s only one rational explanation for that move: the Jets are drinking the Kool-Aid.
The team showed no interest in Linsley during free agency nor did they show any desire to snag one of the top centers in the 2021 class because they “liked what they saw at the end of 2020 from McGovern.”
The End Was Better Than the Beginning, but Almost by Default.
McGovern allowed 33 pressures, five quarterback hits, and six sacks. That resulted in him finishing as the second-worst pass-blocking center in the NFL, per PFF.
McGovern wasn’t the only offensive lineman that stunk last year for the Jets. The entire interior of the trenches was underwhelming. Which acted like an infectious disease that brought the entire unit down.
This led many to speculate that perhaps hitting two birds with one stone was the apt move this offseason.
If you drafted or signed a true center, you could have kicked McGovern to guard. The 28-year old has prior experience at right guard, over 31 career games. Alas, that never transpired.
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but that’s exactly what the former Denver Broncos stud will get to do next season.
Insight From a Former Pro Bowler
On the Badlands podcast, former Jets offensive lineman and now ESPN NFL analyst Damien Woody stopped by to share some positivity on McGovern’s future:
“You’re only as good as the guy that plays next to you on the offensive line. When you play with subpar guys around you, that brings your level of play down. Now that the Jets have upgraded the personnel in the trenches, McGovern is going to have a better year. When you have better players around you, you tend to play better. That’s normally how it works. I totally anticipate him having a better year in 2021.”
Despite all the bad, Woody makes a great point.
McGovern won’t have to worry about the subpar play around him with Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten hopefully going to the bench.
When he looks to his left he’ll see a reliable talented youngster in Alijah Vera-Tucker. That should instill confidence knowing he can trust AVT is going to do his job. McGovern can get back to focusing on his own job.
When he did that two years ago in the midst of his final season with the Broncos, McGovern was playing elite-level football.
The veteran center was rated as one of the top pass-blocking centers in the NFL allowing only one sack and 15 pressures. If the Jets can get that version of McGovern that’ll have a domino effect on the rest of the offense.
If he doesn’t become the player the green and white envisioned they have an out in the contract after 2021. They could release the veteran and save $7.3 million with a minimal dead cap ($1.3 million).