The New York Jets have had issues on the offensive line for the better part of the last decade.
Over the past two offseasons, general manager Joe Douglas has attempted to correct that, but many supporters have felt that he’s failed in this regard — and they could be right.
Douglas has spent first-round draft picks on Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker to fortify the left side of this blocking unit. He’s also dished out contracts to George Fant, Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten and Morgan Moses to build a core six.
In doing so, he passed up proven veterans like Matt Paradis, Corey Linsley, Jack Conklin, Rodger Saffold, Kevin Zeitler, Joe Thuney, Graham Glasgow and Tristan Wirfs (draft) among others. Now, there’s no guarantee that a few of those players were ever considering the Jets, like Thuney who reportedly wanted to sign with a contender, but a few of the others were up for grabs.
Instead, Douglas made the decisions above, and they’ve certainly had mixed results.
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Analytics Highlight Glaring Strengths & Weaknesses
After the Becton injury in Week 1, Fant switched to left tackle and Moses took over on the right side. The three interior linemen have managed to stay healthy through the first five weeks of the season.
Earlier this week on October 12, ESPN reporter Rich Cimini tweeted out the Jets’ offensive line analytics from ESPN Stats & Info. First, let’s take a look at the pass-block win rate from Cimini and ESPN.
The tweet displayed each player’s win rate ranking among qualifying players at their position and the Green & White O-line actually held up pretty well in this key area. After really struggling in pass protection early on, they’ve bounced back with solid performances from the majority of the group.
McGovern ranked 13th out of 33 centers with a 95% win rate (highest among Jets peers). ‘AVT’ was just behind him at 93.5%, which despite its success rate only ranks 18th for guards.
At tackle, Moses and Fant have also held their own with 93.2% and 90.6%, respectively. Those win rates rank 8th (Moses) and 19th (Fant) for tackles in 2021. The one weak link has been ‘GVR’ at right guard, ranking 56th out of 68 contenders with a team-low 87.9% win rate.
Pro Football Focus supports these metrics for the most part, with the following pass pro grades of their own.
|Player||Pass Pro Grade||Sacks Allowed||Pressures Allowed|
AVT and Moses take a bit of a hit but the rest holds true. Fant especially has stepped up big-time at left tackle. With Becton out, he’s allowed zero sacks and seven pressures (tied for a team-low).
When we pivot over to the run-blocking side of the offensive line, things get ugly — fast. First, we’ll take a look at ESPN Stats & Info again, using the same analytics as above.
This time the numbers are pretty embarrassing all around. The highest run-block win rate for the starting five is Moses. The right tackle’s putrid 65% score ranks 60th out of 66 for tackles. Fant is right behind him at 64.6% (61st in the NFL). Pulling up the rear are GVR (64.6%- 54th out of 66), AVT (62.5%- 57th out of 66), and McGovern (60.4%- 28th out of 32).
The Jets’ pathetic rushing yard totals (30th in NFL) support these statistics, but PFF varies a bit here. According to the famed grading site, several Gang Green O-linemen have been solid run blockers this season.
The run blocking grades read as follows: AVT (81.3), McGovern (77.9), Moses (70.1), GVR (69.0), Fant (63.1). After watching the Jets’ first five games, it’s hard to side with PFF on this one.
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Credit Where It’s Due, Star Emerging?
One thing immediately jumps out at you after diving into these analytics, Van Roten is next-level bad. Either Douglas or head coach Robert Saleh should work on replacing him immediately because his poor play is contributing to the offensive struggles.
Second, we all have to give some credit to Fant and Moses. Although neither has been great in the run game, they have kept Zach Wilson upright this season. Out of the eight sacks charged to blockers this season, the pair is responsible for one according to PFF. Considering all the tackles that have failed recent Jets’ quarterbacks like Sam Darnold and Ryan Fitzpatrick, that is a small accomplishment.
McGovern has also improved in this system, even if his run-block win rate could use some work. He’s no longer a detriment at center and with a better right guard alongside him, he could even turn into a strength.
The final piece to talk about is Vera-Tucker. The stats may not jump off the page for the entire season but it’s important to note that the rookie is coming off his best game of the year. In London, AVT led all Jets players with a 92.4 grade (90.6 run block, 88.9 pass block).
He’s also consistently gotten better as the weeks have gone by. The USC product had his worst games of his rookie campaign in Weeks 1-3, allowing 12 quarterback pressures and up-and-down run blocking marks. Since then he’s been flawless in pass protection (zero pressures allowed) and impressive in the run game.
Keep in mind that AVT missed the entire preseason with a pectoral injury. Not only was he gaining his strength back in the early goings, he was receiving his first NFL reps of his career. Based on his trajectory, it’s quite possible we are seeing a star in the making in Vera-Tucker.