CBS Sports NFL writer Douglas Clawson might lean towards the latter, considering he published a June 1 article that detailed why the Jets offensive line “could be Aaron Rodgers’ kryptonite” in 2023. “What happens when Rodgers goes from one of the NFL’s best offensive lines to one of the worst?” The subheading questioned.
We’ll get to some of Clawson’s argument in a minute, but first, it’s important to remember a couple of things while talking about O-line play.
Aaron Rodgers Can Lift a Healthier Jets Offensive Line
One is health. The Jets were stricken by injury after injury on the OL in 2022, and Rodgers managed without Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari for a large portion of last season too — which didn’t factor into their end of year ranking.
If Alijah Vera-Tucker and Duane Brown are 100% in 2023, this is a very different offensive line. Factor in Mekhi Becton being in the best shape of his career, Max Mitchell recovering from a medical emergency and some added reinforcements like Joe Tippmann, Billy Turner and Wes Schweitzer and now you’re cooking with gas.
Another factor is the quarterback itself. Throughout his entire career, Tom Brady elevated the play of his blocking unit with his swift decision-making and pre-snap reads. Rodgers has done the same in Green Bay, and it’s no coincidence that the former Packers QB has had an offensive line “ranked in the top half of the NFL in pass blocking by PFF in 13 straight seasons,” according to Clawson.
It’s ranked high, in part, because Rodgers helps make it run smoothly and efficiently. New offensive line coach Keith Carter — formerly of the Tennessee Titans — should also raise the bar in New York.
Having said all that, Clawson does have a point when it comes to the reliability of the Jets O-line. Here were his major concerns.
NFL Writer Makes Case That Jets Offensive Line Could Derail Aaron Rodgers’ Super Bowl Run
“New York ranked third worst in Pro Football Focus’ pass block grade last season, while the Packers were third best,” Clawson began. “The Jets’ bad offensive line is not what Rodgers is accustomed to, and it isn’t a formula for a title-winning season.”
He added that the “last seven Super Bowl champions had an OL ranked in the top half of the league” in pass protection. Again, good coaches and QBs help.
“The Jets are hoping to follow the [Tampa Bay] Buccaneers’ and [Los Angeles] Rams’ blueprint, who won Super Bowls in their first seasons after acquiring Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford, respectively,” Clawson continued. “Well, the Buccaneers offensive line took a step forward after drafting Tristan Wirfs 13th overall in 2020, and the Rams had the best rated O-line in the entire league in 2021.”
That’s when he laid out his concerns:
“Jets QBs were pressured 88 more times than Rodgers last season,” he wrote. “That’s like Rodgers playing two additional games where he’s pressured on every single dropback.”
Adding: “Rodgers isn’t getting any younger or fleet of foot. He turns 40 in December, and his performance against pressure has been getting worse over the past two seasons. During that span, he is third-best in EPA per play when NOT pressured but 25th when he is pressured. That’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde act equivalent to going from Josh Allen to Mac Jones.”
Point number two, and this is an obvious one — “can they stay healthy?” Clawson noted that “Becton and Vera-Tucker have played only 2% of the team’s offensive snaps together in the past two seasons” to drive that point home.
“Bottom line, the stars need to align for the Jets to take flight,” the CBS Sports writer concluded. “They need Becton and Vera-Tucker healthy, Becton to play like he did in 2020, and contributions from two rookies [Tippmann and Carter Warren]. That’s a lot to ask. I expect the offensive line to be better, but still average at best.”
It remains to be seen if playing in front of Rodgers, rather than an inexperienced signal-caller like Zach Wilson or Mike White, will have any impact on the cohesiveness of the group.