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 Line. 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. To see previous Big Man Reports, click here. Let’s see how the big guys performed in week 11 and take a look at what is waiting for them in week 12.
First of all, I just wanted to apologize for skipping out on the past few weeks. I have been busy with some things away from TOJ. I Want to give a shout out to the team I coach, The Haverford School Fighting Fords who won the Philadelphia Inter-Ac League Championship by beating their biggest rival on the last game of the year. This season was strange. We started off the year 2-4 and were playing horribly. Our lowest point came when we crapped the bed and lost 46-7 to a mediocre team. After that we went 4-1 including a win against one of the top teams in the Philly area and another win against the defending league champ who had won 18 of their previous 20 games.
There are two things I took from coaching this season that I think can be applied to the Jets season: One is that you can never get too down or too high on your team. It’s important to stay even keeled because football is a crazy game and you never know what can happen next. You don’t want to overreact either way. The second thing is that you need to be patient with young/new players no matter how frustrated you get. Coaches and fans are often too quick to dismiss players that are learning on the job. There are going to be growing pains along the way, some alot more damaging than others. If the player shows even the slightest bit of improvement or ability in their first year, that is a great sign. Don’t give up on players and reserve final judgment until you get a little further down the road.
With that in mind, rookie struggles were abundant in the Jets Week 11 blowout loss to the Bills. Geno Smith, Brian Winters, and Tommy Bohanon all had horrendous games. It is becoming obvious that teams are attacking the side of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Brian Winters particularly on passing downs. The Bills dominated the line of scrimmage from the get go and were flying around making plays. Watching the way the Bills Defense played both physically and schematically you would have thought they were the team currently in the playoff picture.
Just a quick note about the grades. I decided to add -1.5 and +1.5 grades as I realized there were some plays that are in between. This won’t change the actual grades at all but will change the plus/minus as you can see in Willie Colon’s grade.
The Kevin Mawae Lineman of the Week – Nick Mangold
The good news is that the offensive line play wasn’t all bad. Nick Mangold had a pretty steady game. Nick had the best plus/minus and had more knockdowns than I can remember all year. He also did a solid job getting up to linebackers and only allowed one QB hurry in the game. I could have selected Austin Howard, he had the highest overall grade but I thought he had a couple pretty bad beats in pass protection that led to a lower plus/minus.
The Block of Week – D’Brickashaw Ferguson
There were a few knockdowns in this game, but only one true pancake block. That block was courtesy of D’Brickashaw Ferguson who is not generally known as a bruiser in the run game. There wasn’t really a good shot of it on the coaches tape or the game replay so there is no screen shot.
Week 11 Recap
The Jets offense, including the line, were outplayed and outcoached by the Buffalo Bills. On first and second down it seemed like one Jets lineman was getting beat on every play whether it was pass or run. On obvious passing downs, the Jets were out-schemed by Mike Pettine’s zone blitz package. It looked like Pettine knew how the Jets would set their protections and then bring 4 guys from the weak side. Guys were constantly getting hits on Geno Smith on 3rd downs because the Jets couldn’t pick up the pressure with 6 blockers. The majority of pressure wasn’t necessarily the line’s fault, but a schematic problem that the Jets Offensive Line and Coaching Staff failed to correct. The good news is that the line wasn’t getting beat across the board on every play like they were against the Titans or the Bengals, it was one guy that would get beat that would ruin the play. I’ll go in grade order for the recap:
Austin Howard (86% grade; -6 plus/minus)
Howard had a solid performance for the most part. He was pretty good in the run game and alright in the pass game. He had a few really bad pass sets where he would overset his man to the outside only to get smoked on an inside move. He didn’t give up any sacks but let up a few QB hits. I would say that he is consistently outplaying Brick, but the Jets are still keeping Tight Ends in to his side and sending backs through to chip on the edge while leaving Ferguson on an island.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson (83% grade; -11 plus/minus)
Ferguson actually played a little better than he has in last few weeks in my opinion. He faced Mario Williams the majority of the game and didn’t let up too many big plays. He did have a bad mental error when he left Williams unblocked on an Inside Zone play that led to a TFL. He was pretty solid in pass pro in this game with the exception of one play where Mario Williams held him on a twist that let Kyle Williams come flying around the edge. It should have been defensive holding call which never gets called in NFL.
Willie Colon (79% grade; -9.5 plus/minus)
Colon’s performance in this game is right on par with where he has been for most of the year. He was decent in pass protection and was great on inside running plays. What hurts his grade are outside running plays and penalties. He doesn’t have pure foot speed to reach linebackers on stretch and toss plays. He also is good for a penalty or two a game. In this game he had a false start and a really bad hold.
Brian Winters (62% grade; -24 plus/minus)
When we get to Winters, this is where the offensive line took a huge dip in production this week. In college, Winters was able to get away with bad footwork and high pad level because he was more athletic and stronger than the competition he was facing in the MAC. Playing guys like Kyle Williams is a huge step up and Winters was physically dominated all day because of poor footwork which leads to bad weight distribution. You need to use two hands to count the number of times that Williams and others tossed Winters in this game.
Here is a small sampling:
Play 1: On this pass play, everyone except for Ferguson will be sliding right.
Because Marcell Dareus will be slanting to the right A Gap, Brian Winters will pick him up. First notice how Winters’ feet are staggered compared to Mangold. His feet are not wide enough and his right foot is back much farther than the it should be. It is going to be nearly impossible for Winters to shift his feet once Dareus makes a move.
Dareus simply clubs Winters on his left arm and knocks him completely off balance.
Winters can only give chase as Dareus takes off after Geno Smith leading to a bad in completion.
Play 2: On this inside zone play going to the left, the Bills come out in the 46 defense. Because of this Winters has to block Kyle Williams by himself.
Winters steps left like he should, but stops his feet on contact. The bigger issue, however, is pad level. He is way too high to block Williams who is much lower.
Williams pushes Winters 4 yards in the backfield making Chris Ivory cut back into traffic before he even has a chance to read the defense.
Play 3: The Jets are going to run a quick toss to the left here out of a tight bunch set.
Notice the big bucket steps taken by 4 out of the 5 Jets offensive linemen. This will ensure that they get on the proper tracks in order to get good angles on both down linemen and linebackers. Notice how the 5th offensive linemen (Brian Winters) takes no step at all.
Before the ball is even in the hands of the running back, Kyle Williams has gained outside leverage on Winters.
Winters is so slow on this play. While Williams is running down the line of scrimmage to make a play, another Bills Defensive Lineman throws Winters on the ground.
Play 4: This is one of Winters’ big mistakes that completely stalls a drive.
Geno drops back to pass. Winters in one one one with Kyle Williams. His technique is flawed again. Look how straight his legs are in comparison to Brick to the left. He is nearly standing straight up and has his feet dug into the ground so that he is in a forward lean.
Williams again takes advantage with a pretty subtle rip move. After the move, Winters feet are inverted and he has given up his outside.
Williams easily gets around Winters and swats the ball out of Geno’s hand leading to a turnover.
Play 5: The Jets are running a hybrid between a wedge and iso play on 4th and 1 on the goaline.
In this blocking scheme, everyone needs to step hard inside to stop inside penetration. Notice how Colon and Mangold are hip to hip on the right. Winters doesn’t step with his right foot and has already given up the inside.
Dareus comes through almost clean and nearly makes the tackle 3 yards in the backfield. Somehow Chris Ivory got in the endzone here, but he shouldn’t have.
Plays 6 and 7: Two more plays where Winters gets eaten alive by Kyle Williams. On this one, see again how straight Winters’ legs are and that his hand placement is on the outside. Williams has complete control because he is lower and has his hands on Winters.
Williams clubs Winters to the inside and gets a big time hit on Geno Smith.
On this Iso play, Winters actually bends his knees a little bit. The footwork problem here is that he is on his toes and not on his insteps. This means he is leaning too far forward. He also has his head down.
Williams gives him an easy swim move which sends Winters falling on his face.
The Never Ending Problem at Left Guard
This season, it doesn’t seem to matter who is at left guard, the Jets have had major issues. With the exception of a few solid games, the left guard spot has been the weak link. It was Stephen Peterman in preseason, Vlad Ducasse to start the year, and now Brian Winters. All three guys have shown a lot more bad than good when they have played. So what are the Jets to do? Do they now bench Winters and put Ducasse back in? Or do they bring in the next guy?
Thinking back to what I said about my own team that I coached, it is not time to give up on Winters. You can’t go back to Ducasse. Winters is a rookie and his very worst is no worse than Ducasse. In fact Vlad still gave up more big plays in Week 3 against the Bills than Winters did this past week. I have seen enough athleticism, power, and aggression from Winters to think that he can develop into a decent NFL guard. His biggest issues have been all technical. His footwork has been horrid at times and his pad level is not good enough. These things can be fixed though. If Winters develops some knee bend which would lead to balanced play, he can be good.
Winters should finish out the season. He had his worst game of the year against one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Hopefully he learns from it and moves on and improves. If he improves even a little bit to end the season, he can go into the off-season on an upward trend.
Looking Ahead – Baltimore Ravens
At first glance, it would seem that the Jets are going from one Rex Ryan disciple to another, but the Ravens DC Dean Pees is actually more of a Bill Belichick disciple. Pees was the Patriots DC from 2006-2009 so he should know the Jets relatively well. Obviously adding Mornhinweg to the mix should erase some familiarity. Although they aren’t the dominant Ravens of old, they are solid as they are ranked in the top 15 in nearly every category.
Personnel-wise they have a really solid front seven that’s led by their talented outside pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Besides being great pass rushers, both guys actually play the run really well and adding guys like Arthur Jones, Chris Canty, and possibly Haloti Ngata (Coming off injury), they are actually better against the run than the pass. At this point, I don’t even think it matters who the Jets are playing. A different offense shows up every week. Since they lost last week and didn’t play that well offensively, I’m sure Geno and the boys will have a big game and beat the Ravens soundly.