The Big Man Report – Week 2: Grading the Offensive Line

Mike Nolan grading and discussing the New York Jets’ offensive line. Here is his Week 2 look at the their performance and preview for Week 3.

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 way I grade the offensive linemen I coached at both the college and the high school levels. To see how I grade click here. Let’s see how well the Jets’ offensive line performed in week 2.

In the Patriots game, I thought the Jets offensive line had a decent game. They were really strong in the running game, particularly inside. Vince Wilfork was pretty much held in check all night thanks to a strong performance from Vlad Ducasse and Tommy Kelly was pushed around, no matter who he lined up against. 

I thought they took another step back in the pass game, however. Geno Smith got hit way too many times from the pocket. It was actually a great sign that he was able to complete some passes right before taking a shot. Despite the fact that Geno isn’t getting rid of the ball too quickly, this line needs to be able to hold their pass blocks longer and work harder to help out the rookie. They have now given up 9 total sacks which is tied for 3rd worst in the NFL. 

As I said in the Big Man Report from last week, I expected the Patriots to watch the Jets-Bucs tape and see how poorly the Jets offensive line did when the Bucs defensive lineman utilized pass twists. They had to see the same thing I did, because the Patriots twisted their defensive lineman on nearly every passing down. As they did in week 1, the Jets struggled for the most part to pick them up. 

The Grades

  Brick Vlad Mangold Colon Howard
Total Plays 72 72 72 72 72
Penalties/Major Mistakes 1 2 0 2 3
Blown Assignments 13 11 14 15 10
Correct Assign/Tech 56 57 55 51 55
Positive Impacts 1 1 3 4 4
Big Plays 1 1 0 0 0
Final Grade 81% 82% 81% 76% 82%
Plus/Minus -12 -12 -11 -15 -12
Average Grade -0.17 -0.17 -0.15 -0.21 -0.17

The Kevin Mawae Lineman of the Week – Vlad Ducasse

I could have given this award to Nick Mangold this week after he had a nice rebound from last week and was steady throughout the game. I decided to give it to Vlad Ducasse. Vlad tied for the highest grade of the week with an 82% and did a really nice job against Vince Wilfork all day. The Patriots usually like to line him up all over the front, but decided this week to put him over the “weak link” the majority of the game as TOJ’s Mike Donnelly expected they would.  Vlad certainly held his own and even got a huge pancake block on Wilfork on the Jets only touchdown which made the Twitter universe explode. 

Block of the Week – Vlad Ducasse on Bilal Powell Touchdown Run 

Here the Jets are on the 3 yard line in a one back set. Vlad Ducasse is lined up at Left Guard with Vince Wilfork lined up to his inside.

Vlad TD 1

The Jets run an inside zone play to the right with Bilal Powell getting the ball. Vlad ends up blocking Vince Wilfork since he stays in the A gap.

Vlad TD 2

Lets take a closer look. Vlad is in a dog fight with Wilfork as both players are straining to hold their ground. As Powell cuts back off of Vlad’s block Wilfork digs in to try and adjust his weight.

Vlad TD 3

When Wilfork does this Vlad flattens Wilfork. He finishes on top of him like the Ultimate Warrior after a belly splash going for the 3 count.

Vlad TD 4

And I just love this shot of Bilal Powell with his arms in the air and Vlad still sprawled out over top of a seemingly lifeless Wilfork.

Vlad TD 5

Week Two Recap

The grades are a little lower than last week’s primarily because I actually got through the entire game this week. If I was able to do the second half last week, odds are that the scores would have been a little lower. The one thing I do like about the grades this week is that they are all within the same range, which means that there wasn’t a weak link that stood out among the starting five. Again they were physical up front with at least 12 knockdowns. The physicality so far in 2013 is miles ahead of where it was in 2012 despite being in a supposedly more physical offense under Tony Sparano. 

The guys who were thought to be the weak links, Vlad Ducasse and Austin Howard, tied for the highest grades at 82%. This is a great sign for the Jets, but these two still have lapses from time to time that can kill the offense. Despite having the highest grades, they also had five penalties/major mistakes between them. While I think Vlad is getting better, you need to take his week two performance with a small grain of salt. Vlad is a big, strong guy and Wilfork is actually the type of lineman that plays to his strengths. It is the quicker linemen that Vlad struggles with because he still does not have great footwork. 

Through the first 30 plays of the game, Vlad only had 3 negative plays, but then rattled off two straight plays that led to a three and out: One where Wilfork smoked him off the ball for a TFL and a second where he gave up a horrible sack. Howard on the other hand started off the game poorly, but really got into a groove towards the end as he had 15 straight positive or satisfactory plays. 

Willie Colon had the lowest grade this week and is the guy that I have been a little disappointed with so far. He has brought some of the physicality and dominant run blocking that I thought he would, but his pass blocking skills still need to progress. When Big Willie is in man protection and his guy doesn’t stunt, he can be dominant. Once defensive linemen start stunting and moving, he has trouble. He has been one of the main reasons why the Jets have struggled so much against pass twists. He does have good recovery skills though and he actually didn’t give up any sacks in this game. His pressures have led to Geno scrambling into sacks though.

The two stalwarts Mangold and Ferguson both graded out at 81% for the game and had steady but quiet games. This is actually a very good thing for an offensive lineman. Brick still shows that he struggles dropping his anchor in pass protection. He gets pushed back a little deep in the pocket for my liking and even got pushed into Geno as he was throwing the ball on one play.  Besides his sack where he got beat on an inside move, he had a steady performance. Mangold on the other hand was rock solid. He didn’t have any major errors and looked astute at calling out protections once again  The only negative I can say about his game is that he is struggling communicating with Willie Colon on pass twists. I would also like to see Nick stay on his 2nd level blocks a little longer. There is one clip in the 2nd quarter where if Mangold stays on his block a split second longer Bilal Powell probably would have broken a 30 yard run instead of a 5 yard run. 

Got It Twisted

I can’t speak enough about the glaring issue of the Jets line picking up pass twists. Here are two clips that will show what is happening on a regular basis through two games and what needs to happen to get it fixed.

In an obvious passing situation, the Patriots line up with 4 down linemen. One thing I noticed throughout this game is that when they lined up with the DEs wide and the DTs in 3 techniques (outside the guard) they were running a pass twist.

Twist Bad 1

On the right side, the Patriots twist Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich. Wilfork slants out into Austin Howard and Ninkovich comes around to try and shoot through the A gap.

Twist Bad 2

The Jets surprisingly run a draw here. Just like they have throughout the game, the Jets don’t pick up this twist and Ninkovich gets around Willie Colon where he has a clear path to make a tackle in the backfield.

Twist Bad 3

Ninkovich makes the tackle 4 yards in the backfield and Colon falls on his face.

Twist Bad 5

Here is an example of the Jets doing a solid job that needs to become more commonplace. Against a straight drop back the Patriots are twisting on both sides.  This clip is a good example of the two ways the Jets OL can pick up these twists.

Twists Good 5

Just like on the previous clip, the DT is slanting out and the DE will come underneath. Brick and Vlad decide to “pass off” this twist. This means that when Brick sees his man looping inside, he knows there is something else coming his way. Here he slides inside to follow the looper where he runs into the slanting DT. It is now his responsibility to take the slanting DT and Vlad will now “pass him off” and take the looping DE. Although in this freeze frame Brick looks off balance, he actually recovers nicely and they stop this pass twist.

Twists Good 3

On the other side, Willie Colon and Austin Howard choose a different method. Colon has struggled using the “pass off” technique so he and Howard simply stay with the men that they’re responsible for. Colon allows his man to get a little bit upfield and then uses his weight against him and dumps him. Howard then simply stays with his man and mirrors him inside.  On one play the Jets offensive line uses two different methods to pick up these twists and create a nice pocket for Geno.

Twists Good 4

Looking Ahead

The offensive line’s strength right now is clearly in run blocking. If you watch the Week Two coaches tape from the sideline angle, you will regularly see a line of scrimmage that is moving forward on run plays. The line is doing a nice job creating push and Ivory and Powell were hitting holes this week. This is why Jets fans were so annoyed by Marty Mornhinweg’s play calling where there were long stretches of no running plays. 

This week will be a huge test as the Buffalo Bills have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The combination of Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Mario Williams is scary. They also have Alan Branch in the rotation who started 31 games for the Seahawks the last two seasons. The only weak link is DE Alex Carrington who is unproven, but has the natural length and athleticism to be a solid player. 

It will be extremely physical inside with K. Williams and Dareus who are big and have great athleticism. I think the Jets inside are built at both guard spots to deal with Dareus, but Williams could actually be the tougher test because of his quickness, especially if he’s lined up on Vlad. My main concern right now is Mario Williams in the pass game. I am scared to death of the idea of Austin Howard one on one with him in pass pro. Williams is a streaky pass rusher. If he gets stoned early he gets frustrated and could have a 0 sack day like he did in New England in week 1. Or he could get to Geno early and often. To prevent this, the Jets are going to have to send some help Howard’s way with chip blocks and max protecting with a tight end.