The New York Jets Big Man Report – Week 4 – TOJ

Mike Nolan grading and discussing the New York Jets’ offensive line. Here is his Week 4 look at their performance and a preview for Week 5.

Each week I will be reviewing the coaches’ tape from the previous week’s game and grading out the performance of the New York Jets Offensive Linemen. This grading process is the same one I use to grade the offensive linemen I have coached at the college and high school levels. To see how I grade click here. Let’s see how the big guys performed in week 4.

There is no way to sugar coat this, the Jets’ offense stunk on Sunday. As a group, they stunk. It was tough to get through the game tape.  It may have been the worst thing put on film since “Gigli.” There were way too many turnovers.  Horrible mental errors. Guys taking plays off. It seemed like one of those days when nothing goes your way and everything continues to snowball. If anyone remembers the movie “The Replacements,” Shane “Footsteps” Falco talks about quicksand as his biggest fear. He describes it like this:

“You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move… you can’t breathe… because you’re in over your head. Like quicksand.”

Its a feeling that the Jets have felt a little too often over the past few years. And once again, after a nice offensive performance against the Bills last week, the Jets offense found itself stuck in quicksand. (Vlad Ducasse’s footwork made it look like he was actually stuck in quicksand). Nearly everyone that has played football, or any competitive sport for that matter, has had this feeling.  The good news: It’s Over. It’ is in the past…and there were some solid performances from guys like D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, and Bilal Powell. The Jets offense now realizes that it has a lot of work to do.  They have to learn from this game and find a way to get better.

The Grades

Week 4 Grades

The Kevin Mawae Lineman of the Week – D’Brickashaw Ferguson

Despite the horrible offensive output, there were a few bright spots.  D’Brickashaw Ferguson was really solid at the left tackle spot through out the game. He had an overall grade of 87% which is an above average day. His only major lapse on the day was a false start early in the game. Otherwise he was rock solid in pass protection and did a nice job getting on the second level in the run game.   would still like to see him drop his anchor a little better in pass pro, but that has been his issue since he came into the league. All in all he had a nice game and had several knockdowns in pass protection.

Block(s) of the Week – Vlad Ducasse and Willie Colon

I really had a tough time coming up with a block of the week that really stood out on film.  There weren’t many crushing blocks that sprung open big runs.  There were a lot of knockdowns in pass protection from both Ferguson and Austin Howard, particularly on the Touchdown throw to Jeff Cumberland.  I decided to go with a power play early in the 2nd quarter where Vlad Ducasse executed a near perfect pull and Willie Colon had a knockdown that sprung Bilal Powell for 12 yards.

Week 4 Recap

As a group, the offensive line had their worst game of the season by far. There were some really bad grades. Vlad Ducasse with a 68% grade was atrocious.  Austin Howard wasn’t far behind with a 72% in what was easily his worst performance of the year. Willie Colon didn’t play great either with a 76% grade, tied for his worst of the year. The main differences between those three performance was that Vlad finished the game with seven penalties or major mistakes. This is the main reason why his performance was historically bad.  (More on Vlad later.)

Austin Howard really struggled in pass protection in this game. I counted 3 separate plays where he did a complete 360 trying to block Derrick Morgan.  He reverted back to some of his old issues where he stops moving his feet and turns his shoulders to the outside way too early. This lead to him getting beat on a few underneath moves. You could tell he was frustrated as he started throwing cut blocks at Morgan. Although Morgan never sacked Geno, he was in his face all day and got 3 hits on him. Howard had two “-2” grades for some really bad hits on Geno.

Willie Colon started off the game on fire with 16 straight plays where he executed his assignment. In those 16 plays he actually had three knockdowns.  This has been a trend for him from week to week. As the game wore on, he started making some mistakes. He had a bad penalty and did a horrible job on the screen play where Geno Smith actually got sacked on the 1 yard line. I still love his physicality, but sometimes it leads to him losing his balance because he is in too much of a forward lean. He was rock solid in pass protection, though.

The one thing this game made me realize is that although you may have some great performance spinkled in by Vlad and Howard, it is the consistency of guys like Brick and Mangold that you lean on. Even in a game where there were some bad performances up front, these two guys were still solid. Both were solid in pass protection with the exception of Mangold’s one major mistake on Geno’s fumble in the endzone. Neither he nor Ducasse got a piece of the Defensive tackle who ended up recovering the fumble for a touchdown.  Besides that and Brick’s penalty, they were pretty consistent throughout the game.  or an offensive lineman to be a pro bowler, its all about consistency.

The Elephant in the Room

The elephant in the room is Vlad Ducasse.  After a solid game against New England in week 2, things were looking up for Vlad. Then after getting beat up by Kyle Williams last week, Vlad put together one of the worst performances I’ve seen from an NFL offensive lineman. Below is a small sample of some of the bad plays Vlad had in this game:

1) Vlad is at left guard. This is the first sack of the game. Vlad gets smoked off the ball on an inside move. This should be a nice pocket for Geno to throw from, but instead the defensive tackle is in Geno’s face and he has to try and scramble where he is sacked.

Vlad Bad Full 1

Here is a closer look. It is incredible how truly far Vlad is from Jurrell Casey here. His feet are actually completely backwards. His right leg should be forward and his left leg should be back as his post foot just like Ferguson next to him.

Vlad Bad 1

Here is Vlad in chase mode.  He should be yelling, “Look Out!”

Vlad Bad 2

2) Vlad gets completely spun around by Antonio Johnson: a backup defensive tackle. Johnson forces Geno to scramble and run out of bounds for another sack.

Vlad Bad 3

3) Here the Titans throw an “X” blitz where one backer blitzes first into the opposite ‘A’ gap and the other blitzes second into the opposite ‘A’ gap, essentially crossing each other. Here Nick Mangold picks up the first blitzer and Vlad should pick up the second blitzer. Vlad is too slow to recognize and move his feet to pick it up.

Vlad Bad Full 3

Austin Howard does an equally bad job on Derrick Morgan and the two defensive lineman converge on Geno Smith for yet another big hit.

Vlad Bad 4

To make matters worse, Vlad falls on top of Geno. Nothing like kicking (I should say belly flopping) a guy when he’s down.

Vlad Bad 5

4) Running a zone read play right. Vlad is in a full forward lean.

Vlad Bad Full 4

Like any decent defensive lineman will do, Karl Klug uses a swim move and Vlad falls on his face.

Vlad Bad Full 5

5) On the screen play (What ESPN has moronically dubbed Buttfumble II), neither Vlad nor Mangold get a piece of Klug who is in Geno’s face way too fast.

Vlad Bad 6

6) Too finish things off, this is something that is completely unacceptable.  At what point is a player so much of a liability that he jeopardizes the health of other players?  Here, Vlad opens up the gate again.

Vlad Bad Full 6

Once he gets beat he turns and chases the defender. Vlad actually throws the defender into Geno Smith’s legs just after he releases the ball.  Geno is lucky he didn’t tear up his knee on this play.

Vlad Bad 7

Right now, Vlad is playing with ‘zero’ confidence. You could see it as the game wore on. It was almost like he just didn’t know what to do to stop the pass rush. His body language became deflated and lazy towards the end of the game. He is still OK in run blocking, but a move has to be made because he flat out can’t pass protect right now. When pass blocking, he is stopping his feet on contact and leaning forward way too much on his punch. He is a swinging gate.

It has already been reported that Brian Winters will get an opportunity to take over the job this Monday against the Falcons contingent on his performance in practice. It’s a move that has to be made after this performance. You can’t continue to leave a guy out there who could potentially get someone hurt.  Geno Smith has taken way too many hits and his short NFL career and Vlad is a major reason why.

Time to move on to Brian Winters and see what the kid’s got. I did a film study on him right after the draft. I liked the physicality he played with and could see some solid athleticism to build on. Jets fans need to have realistic expectations though. He’s not going to play Monday and be the savior for this offensive line.  He will have growing pains just like Geno Smith. He wasn’t great in the preseason and obviously wasn’t doing anything to significantly impress the coaching staff or he would have been playing already. Hopefully he can learn on the job and eventually provide some stability at the left guard spot.

Looking Ahead – Atlanta Falcons

On Monday night, the Jets are going to see a very multiple front out of Mike Nolan’s (No relation) defense. The Falcons are a base 4-3 defense, but they really like to operate out of a 4-3 under look. They will also slide into a 3-4 look often on passing downs.

As of late, the Falcons have not been playing very good defense, especially in their front seven. Pro Football Outsiders has them ranked 17th in run stopping and 30th in pass rush. The main concern for them has been their lack of a pass rush. Osi Umenyiora leads them with 2 sacks through 4 games and they have a total of 7. The other huge issue facing them is a completely depleted linebacking corps. Sean Witherspoon and Kory Biermann are both on IR and current starters Akeem Dent and Paul Worrilow are banged up. The only healthy guys on the depth chart are Joplo Bartu, an undrafted rookie, and Omar Gaither, who is not very good.

This is really shaping up to be a nice bounceback game for the Jets offensive line as the Falcons front seven is not very good.  It won’t be a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination as I’m sure Mike Nolan will try to bring plenty of interesting pressures, especially at Brian Winters.

You never know which group is going to show up: The one that played lights out against a talented Bills front or the one who peed down their legs against a no name Titans front. Hopefully the former will show up for this game and give this offense a chance to be successful.

Author: Mike "Tiny" Nolan

Mike is a graduate of Muhlenberg College where he was a team captain and All-American Center on the football team. Mike is a former NFL Films employee where he was a PA for the NFL Network shows Playbook and Total Access. He also worked at NBC Sports and now does some free lance producing for them. He lives in the Philadelphia area where he is a football coach at The Haverford School.