New York Jets – Up Front Review (Week 1)

Joe Belic reviews the New York Jets offensive line in week 1

I was forced to spend my Sunday afternoon hanging out with my friend Johnnie, Johnnie Walker, to be exact. The emotional distress of the season-opening loss subsided with my old buddy’s help, and I got my psyche prepared for yet another New York Jets repressed memory. Luckily for me, I am able to lock some of the painful games away; still, I empathize with my fellow Jets fans, who can’t.

While it’s difficult to take any positives from the debacle at Bills Stadium, a faint silver lining did appear; Mekhi Becton. Douglas’ first-round investment made his presence known with a promising performance. However, the offensive line still has room for improvement, and in this week’s “Up Front Review,” I assess the starting five and highlight some positives/negatives from week 1.

Mekhi Becton (LT):

  • Hurries: 1
  • Hits: 0
  • Sacks allowed: 1
  • Penalties: 1 (declined)

Although some voiced concerns as to whether or not Becton would be able to exercise his will versus higher-level competition, I think he answered that question clearly. Vintage Mekhi showed up on game day, finishing people to the ground, having his way with defenders and showcasing the skill set that made Joe Douglas, analysts, and fans fall in love with him. There were some mishaps with his footwork along the way, but Becton did a very good job protecting Sam’s blindside. The one sack allowed was more of a “coverage sack,” so I’d prefer not to overplay the situation. His overall display proved the Jets might have found the stalwart left tackle every team covets.

I found some inconsistencies in Becton’s ability to diagnose stunts/twists in my initial preseason review; however, I was very impressed with that part of his game week 1. Below, Becton does a solid job of picking up the E-T stunt displaying good processing, strength, and use of hands to pass off the 5-tech and shutdown the looping 2-tech. Nice throw by Sam here too!

Becton’s true pass sets were limited in college playing in a run-heavy offense so, naturally, I was looking forward to seeing him in this position, and he didn’t disappoint.

All-around nice job by Becton on this pass set. Becton comes out in a 45-degree angle, hits his set points, displays very good use of hands to the shoulder/bicep and pec area, drops his anchor, refits his hands under, and finishes the edge rusher with circular force.

Positives:

  • Hand placement/timing in pass pro
  • Anchor
  • Mental Processing (diagnosing stunts/twist)
  • Play strength
  • Physical toughness and finish
  • Use of drag hand (playing long) to wash and control in run blocking
  • Displacing/sealing EMLOS on the playside of Zone runs

Negatives:

  • Inconsistent footwork at times (crossed feet)
  • Struggled getting to the outside shoulder with reach blocks on the backside of Zone runs

Week 1 Overall Grade: B+

Alex Lewis (LG):

  • Hurries: 6
  • Hits: 0
  • Sacks allowed: 0
  • Penalties: 0

I recently discussed the offensive line’s strengths and weaknesses with a reasonably well-known Jets radio personality. My main concern emphasized issues with the interior (specifically at guard) while he was focused on the tackles. After one week, I think it’s fair to say I won that debate.

Lewis’ NFL leading pressures allowed (six hurries) aren’t going to cut it; he came out flat in pass protection and had difficulty maintaining pocket integrity. Lewis struggles holding ground matched up one-on-one versus stronger/larger DL, which is a concern with the 49ers coming to town.

While he did a decent job with most run blocking assignments after struggling mightily last season, fans shouldn’t get too excited, as the Jets ran the ball a meager 15 times. I’ll need to see more from Lewis before I state he’s improved in the weakest part of his game, but I was intrigued.

Positives:

  • Overall solid run blocking performance
  • Combo blocks and displacing second level defenders on zone
  • Worked well with Becton processing and shutting down stunts

Negatives:

  • Overall pass pro (week 1)
  • Ability to consistently hold ground in pass pro despite solid technique due to adequate play strength matched up one-on-one versus larger/stronger DL
  • Struggled dropping his post foot at times to regain position

Week 1 Overall Grade: C-

Connor McGovern (OC):

  • Hurries: 1
  • Hits: 1
  • Sacks allowed: 0
  • Penalties: 0

The “McGovernator” could have done a better job of laying the down law, but he had a solid game for Gang Green. Unfortunately, he was stuck in between two players who have a hard time abiding by the rules and regulations which constitute interior protection. Regardless, McGovern showed enough to keep me comfortable with the investment.

McGovern had some processing issues in this game, but I don’t believe it’s a problem going forward. In fact, I think it’s one of his strengths. Below, McGovern keeps his eyes active and spots the Bills blitzing two defenders towards the B-Gap. McGovern uses an “overlap” technique (touches adjacent blocker to let him know he’s assisting) and intercepts the LB, finishing him to the ground with very good hand placement to the armpit area.

 

Positives:

  • Kept his eyes active
  • Relatively solid job defining a lane on Zone runs
  • Worked well coming off combo blocks and displacing second level LBs

Negatives:

  • Inconsistent Processing (had some lapses in judgment assisting adjacent linemen)
  • Struggled early with overloaded penetration to the A-gaps
  • Got top heavy and, as a result, was brought to the ground (unfortunately something you’ll find in his film throughout his career) and gave up a hit on Sam on another play

Week 1 Overall Grade: C+

Greg Van Roten (RG):

  • Hurries: 5
  • Hits: 0
  • Sacks allowed: 0
  • Penalties: 0

As mentioned in my OL preview, Van Roten is a player who wins with effort more so than technique, and I was impressed with his blue-collar approach. However, effort will only get you so far against formidable competition. His five hurries are tied for second-most in the league after week one. Now, the film is better than the stat would suggest, but Van Roten still has a lot to clean up. He got walked back several times in one-on-one situations and compromised the pocket. He easily lost balance because of a tendency to lean/lunge for contact and was susceptible to pass rush moves; although I appreciate his ability to recover, it’s bad technique. Also, his inability to keep his helmet out of a block can leave him blind and hinders his processing ability. On one such occasion last week, it resulted in failing to pick up a stunt.

Positives:

  • Displayed the ability to recover
  • Put forth genuine effort

Negatives:

  • Struggled on reach blocks and washing defenders On Zone runs
  • Top heavy and lunged for contact resulting in loss of balance
  • Displacing second level LBs off combo blocks in Zone
  • Missed a stunt because he leads with his helmet and failed to keep his eyes active

Week 1 Overall Grade: C-

George Fant (RT):

  • Hurries: 3
  • Hits: 0
  • Sacks allowed: 0
  • Penalties: 0

Whenever I think of George Fant, I always thirst for a nice cold Fanta. I think that’s a good sign, and it could explain my affinity for the older yet upcoming player. As a first-generation American, Fanta might have been more popular in my house than yours, but don’t let that deter you from allowing Fant to leave a pleasant taste in your mouth.

Fant built on his strong late-season from 2019 and continued the trend this past Sunday. He earned a modest 58.8 overall grade week one from PFF, but I don’t think that mark does his play justice. It wasn’t a perfect outing as he gave up three hurries in addition to some inconsistent hand placement and footwork. Still, he held his ground, kept the pocket clean (for the most part), and demonstrated technique, which leads me to believe he’s a viable starter.

Below, Fant does a good job of establishing a half-man relationship and getting into position. He needs to work on keeping his back, but he displays solid use of hands and very good grip strength.

Positives:

  • Solid job steering edge rushers up arc and protecting the pocket
  • Grip strength

Negatives:

  • Playing the “cover” role on combo blocks due to adequate footwork/hip placement
  • Got top heavy
  • Tended to lunge for contact
  • Inconsistent footwork (crossed feet)
  • Overset occasionally and left inside vulnerable to pass rush
  • Opened up hips too early at times (something he has a tendency to do)

Week 1 Overall Grade: B-