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 13 and take a look at what is waiting for them in week 14.
The general theme of this week’s report will be in line with a lot of the other pieces that have been written both on this site and throughout the Jets Blogosphere: There is a serious malfunction with the Jets Offense. Although they started off the season exceeding expectations, there was a gradual drop off that has now given way to a free fall in recent weeks. Everyone seems to be able to take a portion of the blame from Geno Smith not being able to read defenses or make throws to receivers not being able to get open. The fact that they have been rolling out the equivalent of tackling dummies week after week at Tight End and Fullback has not helped either.
It is not just the players, either. Whether Rex Ryan has exercised his influence or not, the offensive coaching staff has become unimaginative and conservative. Their preparation and game planning each week hasn’t shown on the field and there hasn’t been any in game adjustments schematically.
With all that being said, one of the big reasons for the Jets recent offensive struggles is the downfall of the offensive line as a unit. The offensive line started off the season playing a physical brand of football that helped the Jets overachieve offensively. Lately, I haven’t seen anywhere near that physicality. They haven’t had a grade of 90% since Nick Mangold had one in week 6 against the Steelers. When guys were struggling, the other four guys would pick it up earlier in the year. In week 13, there is an overall unit issue. It seems like they are not playing physically or smart like they were earlier in the season. I don’t know if its confusion or lack of confidence in the offense, but they seem to be playing uninspired football the past few weeks.
The Kevin Mawae Lineman of the Week – Nick Mangold
Nick Mangold wins the award because he was tied for the highest grade and had no major mistakes. Nick did not have a great game, he was slightly above average, but he gets the award for having the smallest negative impact. I was not thrilled with the way Nick called out some of the protections. He needs to do a better job to give the offense a chance. He did a good job in pass protection though and had one of his better games in run blocking on the second level.
The Block of Week – Brian Winters
There were a few knockdowns in this game, but nothing that stood out to me as having a great positive impact and no big crushing blocks. The best block I saw was on an outside pull on a stretch zone play. Brian Winters had a really nice knockdown on a defensive back on the edge that sprung a decent gain.
Week 13 Recap
D’Brickashaw Ferguson (84% grade; -11 plus/minus)
Brick put together another average game in week 13. He was pretty solid in run blocking actually getting a lot of movement on zone plays. Because of his ability to run block this year, his grades haven’t been horrendous. If I were to separate run plays and pass plays there would be a big disparity. Brick did not do a great job in pass protection again this week. He gave up 3 sacks in this game and a few other pressures. It also seems like when he doesn’t give up a pressure, he is still getting pushed back into the quarterback’s lap. Brick has made his bones as an athletic pass protector, but his lack of anchor and punch strength has finally caught up to him. He isn’t a sure thing any more and has struggled even more since Brian Winters has started playing beside him.
Willie Colon (75% grade; -15 plus/minus)
If nothing else, Willie Colon is consistent. You know he’s going to have a couple knockdowns and will be pretty good in pass protection for the majority of the game. You also know that he will be good for a penalty or two and a few run plays where he just doesn’t move his feet. This game was no different. Willie has had a grade in the 70′s every week since week 6. Even his physicality has waned in recent weeks.
Austin Howard (73% grade; -14 plus/minus)
Howard had his worst game of the season and received his first grade in 70′s all year. Usually Howard seems to do a decent job against star defensive lineman and he held Cameron Wake to zero sacks. In the run game, he was awful. Howard fell off blocks all day. Howard struggles against quick defensive linemen and linebackers because his athleticism isn’t that great. Nearly all of his negative plays came in run blocking. His play seemed uninspired also. He gave up on a few blocks that I thought showed some laziness, something I haven’t seen our of him all year.
Brian Winters (71% grade; -17 plus/minus)
The good news is that Winters didn’t score in the 60′s. The bad news is he’s not far off. Winters had another tough game this week, but this time he wasn’t playing against Haloti Ngata or Kyle Williams. He struggled equally on run and pass plays, but all of his major mistakes came on pass plays. It is painfully obvious that Brian Winters does not currently have the footwork to successfully compete as an NFL offensive lineman. He makes some head scratching steps in his pass sets that I can’t believe I’m seeing at this level of football. Its too late in the season for the Jets to make a move at left guard, but Winters needs a full offseason to work on his footwork issues to see if he will be able to become a serviceable lineman or just another lost cause Jets offensive line draft pick.
Where are the Adjustments?
One major criticism of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg during their tenure with the Eagles was that they were not great in game coaches and struggled to make adjustments on the fly. This criticism was one of the ones that actually held merit there and it appears that Mornhinweg has brought that culture to the Jets offense. There are glaring issues that are just never corrected as a game goes on.
When the Jets offensive line are not in synch with the quarterback and running backs, these are things that need to be corrected on the sideline so that they don’t keep recurring. This is something that veteran players need to do in concert with the coaching staff. It’s also something that needs to be spotted from the coaches booth. I don’t know where the disconnect is, but these corrections are not being made. The Jets offensive line, whether its Mangold or the tackle to the side, continue to call bad slide protections. It was a huge issue in the Bills game from week 11 and continues to be a problem.
Here the Jets line calls a slide protection as the Dolphins have linebackers walked up on the line. There is one major problem: There is no one in the backfield to pick up the unblocked Cameron Wake.
This issue needs to be corrected. Too often, the quarterback is under duress before even catching the shotgun snap. This is not because guys are getting beat physically or because they aren’t any good; its a schematic flaw that needs to be addressed but hasn’t. These are the types of mistakes a team that isn’t that good, can’t afford to make. The Jets offense is already behind the eight ball talent wise, they will bury themselves with mistakes like these. This is why there is a huge drop off in production; a talent deficiency now being compounded by horrible mental and schematic errors.
Looking Ahead – Oakland Raiders
The Raiders defense is a veteran group with some young up and comers mixed in. They have been really solid against the run this year with DTs Pat Sims and Vance Walker clogging up the middle. On the other hand, they have been very susceptible to the pass with teams putting up big numbers on their aging secondary and young linebackers. They don’t have a great pass rush and they have not forced a lot of turnovers either.
There are two ways you can look at this match up with the Raiders defense. You can say that this is a bad match up for the Jets since they have had trouble throwing the ball, but have been able to move the ball from time to time with Chris Ivory. The Raiders defense may not be a great defense for the Jets to exploit their weaknesses.
Looking at it from a different angle, maybe this is a game where the Jets may be able to finally open up the passing game a little bit. They still need to run the ball at least 25 times with Ivory, but Geno Smith may be able to make some throws against a team that hasn’t been great defending the pass. It may be wishful thinking, but the NFL is a game of ebbs and flows and this week could be a good time for some positive thinking on offense.