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With the Jets on their bye week, we've been reviewing some of the Jets players, looking in detail at their season so far and what to expect from them coming out of the bye week. We're looking at a mixture of players who've exceeded expectations and that have been disappointing so far. We continue today with a collective look at the offensive line.
Expectations prior to the season
Throughout preseason, the Jets expressed confidence in Jonotthan Harrison to man the center position, despite him having been far from convincing while relieving Spencer Long over the second half of last year. However, their actions belied that public display of faith, as they convinced veteran Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement, gave him a lucrative one-year deal and announced he would be the starter.
They had already brought in veteran Kelechi Osemele via trade to be the starting left guard, hoping he'd bounce back from an injury plagued 2018 campaign.
The Jets had three returning starters from the group that struggled last year; tackles Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell and right guard Brian Winters. However, the hope was that they'd upgraded the other two spots and would see a resultant uptick in performance across the board.
Despite not playing at all in preseason, Kalil was instilled as the opening day starter in between Osemele and Winters - who themselves only played seven snaps each in preseason.
Stats over the first three weeks
- 3.0 yards per carry rushing - 29th in the NFL
- 13 sacks surrendered -30th
- 23 quarterback hits surrendered - 26th
- 12 combined penalties
The line's performance has been much maligned, as the offense has struggled to move the ball in the first three games of the season. While there are some other mitigating factors, it's been apparent all year that the offensive line has been making a lot of mistakes.
Of the 13 sacks they've given up this season, only five came as a direct result of one of the offensive linemen being beaten one on one. That included Beachum getting bull rushed by Myles Garrett for two sacks in the Browns game. Of course, Garrett is one of the league's top young pass rushers and Beachum - who hasn't otherwise surrendered any sacks - was perhaps feeling the effects of an ankle issue that had limited him during practice that week.
Surprisingly, Kalil and Winters have yet to surrender a sack so far this season.However, that's not to say that they haven't been at fault on some of the plays that have led to sacks or pressure. Defensive gameplans have accounted for the disruption at quarterback and the fact that the line has struggled by using a lot of stunts, twists and delays and by disguising who is going to rush. This has led to unblocked rushers coming off the edge and players not being picked up on interior rushes.
The running game isn't off to a good start yet either, although with Sam Darnold out, teams have been stacking the box. As disappointing as the run blocking has been, this is probably one area that is marginally improved, especially when compared to the second half of last year.
The other major problem has been penalties. The group has combined to give up 12, including four each for Kalil and Beachum. That hasn't helped matters, by forcing the Jets into plenty of obvious passing downs.
Expectations after the bye
There's been some discussion about the possibility of personnel changes going forward with the offensive line having performed so disappointingly. The most obvious change would be to put Harrison back in for Kalil, but the team might also be prepared to give some first-unit reps to their experienced reserves Alex Lewis and Tom Compton if their guards continue to struggle. As the Jets drop out of contention, the team might also take a look at rookie Chuma Edoga to see if he's a viable contender to contribute next season and beyond.
The team can't wait forever for the offensive line to gel and start performing better as a unit, even though in theory that's something a group of veterans should be able to achieve. However, by the same token, replacing one or more of the players will mean there's a different group of players that need to figure out how to play together, effectively resetting the clock.
It can't have helped matters to have to revert to the second-string quarterback and then replace him with a player from the practice squad with zero experience. The best hope for the Jets offensive line is that re-inserting Darnold back into the starting line-up accelerates that process of getting the starters to play more cohesively as a unit.