The Jets offensive line was quite the story for the 2019 season. From injuries to miscommunication to an inability to block a zero blitz, this unit showed it all… and not in a good way. For too many years, and specifically under Mike Maccagnan, Jets fans and media alike were clamoring for more attention to be paid to this unit. But still, no investment was made and it reared its ugly head in 2019. This position group, which was marginal at best coming into the season, was a major disappointment.
To add salt in the wound, they were oft-injured as well, starting 11 different lineman and nine different line combinations during the season. A lauded Hail Mary by new GM Joe Douglas before the season to lure Ryan Kalil out of retirement to come play center was a huge swing and a miss, and his season ending injury proved to be a blessing in disguise as Jonotthan Harrison filled in much better for the latter part of the season. Early season struggles from Kelvin Beachum (he’s still having nightmares of Myles Garrett) and Brian Winters, a turnstile rotation at right tackle between Brandon Shell and Chuma Edoga, and continual miscommunication and incompetence paved the way for an abysmal season for the Jets’ offensive line.
The offensive line simply did not pass the eye test. They were bad early on in the season. Historically bad. They improved late in the season. But were still bad. The unit ranked tied for last in the league in rushing yards before contact at 1.4. They ranked last in the league in first downs rushing at 64. And they were 31st in the league in rushing yards per game at 78.5. Furthermore, despite an extremely soft schedule, the Jets were only able to crack 100 yards as a team three times (!), topping out at 115 yards against Washington. They failed to have a single 100-yard rusher in any game this season, despite signing a certain All-Pro Running Back Le’Veon Bell this offseason. The unit also paved the way for Bell’s worst season as a pro as he averaged just 52.6 yards per game.
Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a bit.
You may be thinking, “Well Adam Gase was pass happy and didn’t use Le’Veon Bell properly anyway, so the rushing stats are misleading…” I wish that were the case. This unit also allowed the 4th most sacks in the league at 52 and the second most hurries at 76. Anybody who watched a Jets game this year could tell that Sam Darnold was under pressure far too often and the offensive line was simply not the one you would choose to protect your franchise quarterback.
The bottom line here is that this unit was bad overall. The only reason that this grade was salvaged as a “D” and not an “F” was that they did show improvement later in the season as Beachum got healthy and they were forced to start Alex Lewis and Jonotthan Harrison – moves that should have been made anyway.
I anticipate, as many do, that the Jets will be heavily involved in re-investing in the offensive line this offseason through the draft and free agency. Given the neglect over the years, the obvious need, and Joe Douglas’ history, it should be priority number one for this organization. I expect they bring back Beachum (decent starter and quality character guy) and Alex Lewis as starters and look to upgrade via the draft and free agency at tackle, guard and center. The Jets should be all in on Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney and look to invest heavily in the early rounds of the draft, depending on how the board breaks.
They’ve got the franchise quarterback. It’s time they learned their lesson and made his job easier. It’s time they protect him.