The addition of the veteran right tackle marks the latest effort by general manager Joe Douglas to reconstruct this green and white offensive line. It’s already a near 180 from the dreadful Jets blocking unit in 2020, although one or two problem areas remain.
With center Connor McGovern pegged as a much better scheme fit in Mike LaFleur and John Benton’s system, that leaves right guard Greg Van Roten.
For those expecting offensive tackle George Fant to swap inside at guard, that’s not happening.
The former tight-end turned lineman just isn’t built to be a guard. Technically speaking, this transition is not as easy as it seems and interior offensive line also requires a strong base and anchor.
Fant is more of an upright blocker that loves to use his athleticism to get out wide. As I’ve mentioned in the past, he’ll become a swing tackle with Moses on the roster but he may still have a role in this Jets offense as a jumbo formation tackle that lines up next to Mekhi Becton or the new right tackle.
So what does that mean at right guard? It means the answer is more simple than most fans are making it.
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Van Roten Brings Discipline, Pass Protection
Despite starting the offseason as a likely cap casualty, Van Roten should end up being the starting right guard when all is said and done, and that’s not as horrible as it seems.
The veteran really wasn’t as bad as some make him out to be in 2020. According to Pro Football Focus, he was your average serviceable NFL guard at a 63.0 grade. Nothing spectacular, but he’ll get the job done with better pieces around him.
Diving deeper into the numbers, Van Roten excelled as a pass-blocker (71.5) and struggled mightily as a run-blocker (54.4) in Adam Gase’s scheme. That last part is important.
After the spring sessions, beat reporter Connor Hughes wrote: “McGovern and Van Roten, who had good summers, seem to be benefitting the most [from LaFleur’s new scheme].”
The thing about Van Roten is, you sort of know what you’re going to get. One major part of that is his discipline.
According to Pro Football Reference, “GVR” has only been flagged for one penalty his entire NFL career. That means in 60 games played and over 2,800 total snaps, he’s only had one single infringement, so you know he’s not going to kill you with bad penalties.
Secondly, Van Roten holds up pretty well in pass protection. Whether taking on bull-rushers or blitzes, GVR handles most of what the defense throws at him.
He only had three sacks allowed in 2020, a stat that head coach Robert Saleh and LaFleur will no doubt be looking at with a rookie quarterback under center.
Do your job, don’t get stupid flags, and don’t let them touch Zach Wilson. Check, check and check.
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Scheme Should Help GVR
As I mentioned above, this scheme should also help Van Roten improve in 2021. He talked about this aspect when he addressed the media back in mid-June.
“It’s different, and I think different can be good sometimes,” the right guard told reporters, “we have the offensive personnel to be very successful in a wide-zone scheme.”
Based on the way LaFleur and Benton coach, GVR noted that it’s “very clear as to what’s expected, and where you have to be.”
Benton talked about how the O-line will “attack the defense” in this system. This should help the entire unit pass-block, which is already a strength of Van Roten, but it should also keep defenses on their heels.
Paired with the fact that there’s more talent around him in Moses and Alijah Vera-Tucker, this season should be a lot easier on GVR.
And He’s a Team Leader
Van Roten is also the Jets’ union rep, so naturally, he has a good relationship with the other players in the locker room.
Although Dan Feeney got most of the credit for the New York Islanders extravaganzas, GVR actually suggested the idea that the Jets players start going to games together.
“It’s an opportunity to bond,” Van Roten explained, “you know we didn’t have this opportunity last spring and it definitely hurt us as a team throughout the season.”
Comradery is huge when building an offensive line. GVR knows this, and he knows the Jets are better off after a full summer training with one another.
“We’ll be better as an offensive line this year,” said Van Roten, “not just because of the scheme but because of the continuity.”
The added talent should help too, but either way, this blocking unit should be noticeably different in 2021.