With camp now underway, we’re going to take a look at some more of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with Alex Lewis.
Lewis is a 27-year old former 4th-round pick out of Nebraska. He has started 18 games over his first three seasons, all of which have been with the Ravens. The Jets traded a conditional 2020 seventh round pick for Lewis last week and he remains under contract for this season at a salary of just over $2 million.
Lewis was ranked as the 86th best offensive tackle prospect out of high school and was initially recruited to Colorado.
After starting three games as a true freshman, Lewis started every game at guard in 2012 but then opted to transfer to Nebraska at the end of the season.
He was forced to sit out the 2013 season due to the transfer rules and spent four week in jail following an assault charge, but eventually settled in as a full-time starter with the Cornhuskers over the next two years.
After Lewis raised his stock at the East West Shrine Game, the Ravens drafted him in the fourth round and he ended up as an opening day starter as a rookie. He eventually started eight of the first 10 games before missing the last six due to injury.
Injury struck again in his second season as he missed the entire year, but he bounced back to start 10 games last season.
Lewis was rumored to have been released during training camp but the Jets eventually agreed to trade a conditional 2020 pick for him.
Now let’s take a look at what Lewis brings to the table, divided into categories.
Lewis was 270 pounds when he arrived at Colorado, adding 15 after his freshman year and another 30 since then. He has decent length and posted average-to-good numbers at the scouting combine, although he can look slow-footed at times.
Lewis ran a 5.22 in the 40-yard dash and did 27 bench press reps. His explosiveness and agility numbers were average, although he did add five inches to his broad jump number at his pro day.
Lewis has mostly played at left guard but is viewed as a versatile option. Three of his starts in his rookie year were at left tackle and he was rumored to be a candidate to start at right tackle last season. He even played five snaps at center in preseason last year.
At college, he played both guard and tackle, mostly on the left side. However, he was also employed as a blocking tight end in his rookie year and played some defensive tackle in high school.
At guard, Lewis has given up four sacks in 15 career starts, but his pressure rate hasn’t been too bad. In that role, he looks pretty solid at dropping into his stance and using his length to repel or slow down his man. However, his anchor can be an issue sometimes and a good bull rush can get him moving backwards or throw him off-balance.
Lewis didn’t give up any sacks as Nebraska’s starting left tackle in 2014 or 2015 and when he lined up at left tackle as a rookie, Lewis didn’t give up any sacks in his three starts. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story because he gave up 21 total pressures, including four hits.
As scouting reports predicted, he can have issues staying in front of speed rushers because he’s a little slow-footed getting back into his stance.
This can lead to the knock-on effect of making him susceptible to being driven off balance by a speed-to-power move.
Lewis graded out poorly as a run blocker last season. He will have issues with getting stood up at the point of attack or losing leverage so his man can get off his block. However, there are plenty of examples of good run blocking plays on his film as well.
This is a good sign, as he handled an elite talent in Grady Jarrett well on a couple of occasions. Here, he drives him off the line and keeps him sealed to the outside.
While he mostly operated within zone blocking schemes, he shows an ability to pull and block on the move here.
Here’s a really nice play from the tackle position. He gets on the move, helping the left guard set the edge with a combo block and then peels off to drive the linebacker out of the play.
He can also be a good player to run behind in short yardage situations as he has the ability to get some traction in the trenches.
Lewis hasn’t shown too many examples of getting out in front of screen passes and his athletic limitations can prevent him from being able to get a good angle in space. However, this play displays some great hustle as he first makes a cut block and then charges downfield to knock the tackler off and allow the runner to get a first down.
In the running game Lewis will do a good job of resetting his hand position and try to maintain leverage and stay on his man. His main issues are caused by his athletic limitations, specifically that he will lunge to make a block rather than getting his feet under him and that he can be slow to get into position to angle off his man in space.
Good technicians can exploit Lewis by getting him off balance both in the running game and in pass protection. Geno Atkins gives him a problem here.
Lewis had six penalties in 2018 - three for holding and three for false starts. Penalties had been less of an issue for him in his rookie season, as he had four (two holds and two false starts), all of which were during the three games he started at tackle.
He had a reputation for committing penalties in college, in large part because of his role in an overtime loss against Miami. Lewis had three costly penalties that day, including a senseless late hit in overtime to set up the winning score. He had 12 penalties in his redshirt junior year and nine as a senior.
Lewis’ only contributions on special teams at the NFL level have been as a blocker on the placekicking unit and he wouldn’t be expected to do anything more than that with the Jets.
At the guard position, Lewis was often employed as the spare man so he had to keep his head up and give assistance to his linemates or pick up delayed blitzes. On this play, though, the Ravens struggle to adequately pick up the stunt and multiple players get to the quarterback.
As noted, five of Lewis’ 10 career penalties have been false starts so he can have lapses in concentration.
As a young player, Lewis was regarded as somewhat hot-headed and that may have factored into his arrest for a felony assault while at Colorado. He eventually got the felony charge dropped in exchange for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and spent 28 days in a Colorado jail in 2014.
Lewis is considered to have matured during his last few years at Nebraska, which eventually saw him named as a team captain.
He’s got some character quirks - for a while he was sporting a flamboyant mullet - but he’s not afraid to mix it up and show some nastiness on the field.
Lewis has major durability concerns as he’s really struggled to stay on the field at the NFL level. Although he started every game in his last three collegiate seasons, that did include a year off, during which he had shoulder surgery.
As a rookie, he missed two starts with a neck injury and then the last six games with a sprained ankle, then suffered another shoulder injury in training camp the following year. That landed him on injured reserve for the entire 2017 season.
Last year, he was stretchered off with what looked like a serious neck injury, but actually returned to the lineup after missing just two games. However, he missed the last four games with yet another shoulder injury and again was forced to endure offseason surgery.
He had been on the PUP since the beginning of camp, but reports of his impending release by the Ravens suggested he had passed a physical with them. He also had to pass one with the Jets to make the trade final.
The Ravens have mostly been operating out of a zone blocking system, which should mean Lewis is a good fit for Frank Pollack’s scheme with the Jets. He essentially replaced Kelechi Osemele as the Ravens’ left guard in 2016.
There was perhaps a bit of an overreaction to this trade, which came on the heels of the Ryan Kalil signing with some Jets fans seeing the two moves as a sign that Joe Douglas was finally overhauling the line.
In truth, this is little more than a depth move and Lewis probably isn’t even guaranteed a spot, as guys like Tom Compton, Ben Braden and Eric Smith look to secure reserve roles. With Brent Qvale recently injured, a spot has opened up and Lewis’ versatility gives him a good chance at earning that role. However, it’s not clear how long Qvale will be gone.
Lewis graded out poorly last year and if he had played like that for the Jets, most of the same fans would almost certainly be calling for him to be dumped. However, some of his film isn’t bad and he’s only a fourth year player so perhaps he can improve his consistency and establish himself as someone they’ll look to bring back next year.