John's post opening up the question as to whether the Jets have built in enough optimum support for Geno to succeed, whether he has enough weapons or perhaps more importantly Offensive Line, has a footnote to it. Several of us have been talking about the Offensive Line, how it let Geno down in 2013, and how it looks like it may even be weaker this year. The graph below shows that the Jets OL has degraded over time to the point of NFL average (shown in PBE, a weighted PFF metric that includes hits and hurries at the rate of pass blocking attempts)
It was a down year generally for NFL line averages. In any other year the 2013 performance would have been below average.
The Hidden Value of TE and RB Protection
Every time a Jet dropped back to pass last year, he had about .53 RB and TE blockers (per dropback, .588 per attempt), basically 1/2 of an Offensive Linemen. That means that nearly 10% of his protection was made up of players that were not Offensive Linemen. We like to think of protection merely in terms of the OL, but it is more than this. Also consider that very often when these additional blockers are left in, these are downs where protection is considered more important, often critical downs where protection is being counted on. Pass blocking failures from RBs and TEs can tend to end drives. We make a lot about the performance of 1 Offensive Linemen, a little less than 20% of protection, but do not think much about the combined protection from these additional blockers.
One reason we don't think about this additional element - aside from that it isn't represented statistically in a convenient way - is probably that most teams fall in a wide center of average. I've just been looking at this data a short time, but it does seem that "average" protection from TEs and RBs isn't hard to achieve. You can see that in that the NFL average PBE from TEs and RBs doesn't vary much, and even from the Jets Rex Ryan history you will see that the Jets were very close to average...that is until last year:
The Jets instead of average - with the way that they put the roster together with a rookie Fullback who was dreadful, high-carry RBs who do not excel in the passing game, and weak pass blocking TEs - were rather dramatically the worst TE and RB blocking team in the league...
One can see above that at least half the league gathers around a fairly tight mean, pretty much where the Jets found themselves for 4 years. Last year was bad.
Now the Jets have added Amaro whose is a slick pass catching TE, in replacement of Winslow. It remains to be seen if that can be a pass blocking upgrade (though he won't be held in to block too frequently). And Cumtberland was the worst blocking TE in the league last year (PFF25, 35th out of 35). The Jets have added Chris Johnson who is below average (35th out of 54 Running Backs last year - PFF25 and 41st out of 63 Running Backs the year before). An optimist would see a possible upgrade from 2013 in this area, but really only barely, as in not as bad. The biggest question will be if they give up on Bohanon who was unfathomly bad for a back whose main job is blocking.
These things add up. You add a rookie QB who struggles with pocket awareness to an OL which is hovering over average, to running backs and tight ends that are porous and the whole thing can collapse if anchor players don't have good games (as it did during those three historic games last year). When a team cannot dependably "max protect" on critical downs this can be a significant issue, and seriously reduce what the Offensive Coordinator can game plan or call. There is always the hope that the Offensive Line protection will be this year's "Run Defense". Last year, on paper, most of us including myself thought that the Jet Run Defense was going to be a problem, and it turned out to be a strength. Maybe the Jet Pass Protection pulls the expected, and there is a Harrison performance lurking. For many though, past performance is a good indicator of likely future performance, and this a 10% of protection problem, at least half a lineman. A team can maybe afford poor protection from the TEs and RBs, but only if the offensive dynamism they are getting is as good as the blocking is bad. That clearly was not the case last year.
It is questionable to me though that the Offensive Line was not seriously addressed, and only patched together, considering the somewhat hidden weakness of pass protection from the other positions. It strikes me as walking a dangerous line of probabilities.
As always, these were hand assembled stats, there may be errors.