However, while Winters did have a couple of bad moments, he was far from the only reason for the offensive line's struggles in yesterday's game. I know the Eagles have a couple of talented guys up-front, but they were also missing three starters from their front seven and the Jets struggled to win at the point of attack in the running game and to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick as effectively as you'd usually expect.
There would be no settling into a good second-half rhythm as there was last week. The line couldn't seem to get it going and, while each player made individual errors, it seemed like most of the problems came from a failure to block effectively as a unit. With such a wealth of experience on the line, could the downside be that the short week has affected them more than it would most other teams? If so, that doesn't bode well for the Thursday and Saturday night games against Buffalo and Dallas, respectively, later on in the season.
Fitzpatrick was only actually sacked once but did deal with a lot of pressure. I guess that was inevitable because he ended up dropping back more than 60 times. That's another thing which is not ideal for an ageing offensive line because constant pass protection is presumably more tiring than run blocking.
At left tackle, D'Brickashaw Ferguson had some issues dealing with the power of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, who repeatedly pushed him back in the pocket. Much of the time, though, this was achieved by getting their hands up in his face and driving him back by the facemask. Check out the play before Marshall's touchdown for a particularly egregious example that you get to see from three angles. NFL officials never call that though. Oh, wait...
Legal or not, Ferguson struggled to stay on his block, but never really let anyone past him to surrender a clean hit on Fitzpatrick, although right near the end of the game he did lose inside leverage for a hit. The Jets even used James Carpenter to give him inside help and ensure a clean pocket on some plays. In the second half, Ferguson seemed to regroup and this wasn't as much of an issue for him. He did have his man get upfield on him on one play, but recovered to drive him out of the play and his man nearly had a sack on a play where Fitzpatrick had to flip the ball to a back while in the grasp. On that play, Ferguson had stayed on his block and Fitzpatrick ran into his man, though.
On the other side, Breno Giacomini was also driven back into the quarterback a handful of times, but he gave up more clean pressure. Giacomini lost inside leverage a couple of times and, unlike Ferguson, was also beaten outside a couple of times and allowed his man to record a sack. That one was Colon's fault, though, as he was bull rushed into the backfield and Fitzpatrick was sacked by Giacomini's man as he tried to step up.
I think that play, where Vinny Curry drove Colon back, was where he aggravated his knee injury, although he did stay in for the last four plays before exiting at half time. He didn't surrender any other pressure in that first half and even saved Giacomini at least once, but each interior lineman gave up at least one pressure including one play where Carpenter was fooled by Connor Barwin bluffing like he was going to drop into coverage and then reacted to late to his delayed blitz. That was the play where Quincy Enunwa was open deep but Fitzpatrick couldn't get a clean throw off. There was also a couple of pressures from stunting linemen splitting between two blockers.
With Winters in, the interior seemed to fare worse in pass protection in the second half, although that was partly because the Eagles linemen knew the Jets had to pass and so were able to tee off on them. Carpenter was beaten cleanly once, bull rushed into the quarterback once and failed to pick up a stunt once. Nick Mangold didn't get beaten for a pressure but there was one slow-developing screen pass where he actually propelled the pass rusher into Fitzpatrick as he peeled off to the second level. As for Winters himself, he showed poor awareness on one delayed blitz that led to a hit, failed to sustain his block on the play where his man tipped a pass leading to an interception and got beaten cleanly once for another pressure.
In terms of the running game, the team really struggled as a unit. Each tackle missed a couple of blocks that led to runs getting stuffed and Mangold uncharacteristically struggled at the point of attack, especially in the first half. A run was also blown up when the tackler split a Colon and Mangold double team to make the tackle in the backfield. Each lineman had at least one good block in the running game, apart from Winters, although the Jets didn't really run much in the second half with Powell and Fitzpatrick carrying just four times each.
Sometimes when the Jets' running game isn't clicking you'll see examples where multiple players screw up on any given play. Also, at the other end of the scale, you'll find that almost everyone will block really well on a given play, but one or two obvious mistakes are the reason why the play failed. In yesterday's game, it seemed like neither of these were apparent very often. Instead, it just seemed untidy somehow.
There was one really obvious example of the latter I want to share though, which was actually on a screen pass rather than in the running game.
This play wasn't an ideally set up screen pass, but it had a great chance of working. Note how Carpenter is tasked with getting across to take out the defensive player who has stayed at home and is looking to square up Bilal Powell in the open field. At the same time, the other four offensive linemen seem to be set up to wall off their men perfectly by sealing them to the backside. Well, apart from...
Fitzpatrick pays the price for getting the throw off, but Carpenter makes the block, opening up the Carpal Tunnel™ perfectly for Powell. Well, it would have been perfectly...
Where are you going Willie? He's right behind you!
Okay, just run over and take out Breno instead, that works. Did he forget what team he was on because of the white-out?
While Colon might not even play next week and, who knows, may miss considerable time, this play is still a good example of something that should have worked perfectly, but one breakdown makes all the difference.
With or without Colon in the line-up, the Jets will be under pressure to block far more cohesively as a group in the next game, in which the challenge of facing Ndamukong Suh looms large.
Next up...a review of how the running backs dealt with the struggles up-front and the absence of their workhorse...