With camp now underway, we’re going to take a look at some more of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with Ryan Kalil.
Kalil is a 34-year old former 2nd-round pick out of USC. He had spent his entire career with the Carolina Panthers until retiring as a five-time pro bowler at the end of last season. However, the Jets convinced him to come out of retirement to be their starting center in 2019.
Kalil, whose father also played in the NFL, had a decorated college career, during which he was an all-American, Pac-12 first-teamer and the winner of the Morris Trophy.
He ended up being drafted late in the second round of the 2007 draft by the Carolina Panthers and was named to the all-rookie team by the Pro Football Writers’ Association despite starting just three games.
In 2008, Kalil became the full time starter, a job he kept for 11 seasons. He went to his first pro bowl after the 2010 season and became the highest paid center in NFL history in 2011.
Kalil went on to be voted to five pro bowls, the last of which was at the end of the 2015 season. The Panthers reached the Super Bowl at the end of that year. He was also a two-time first team all-pro.
In 2016 and 2017, Kalil missed a total of 18 starts and planned to retire after the 2018 season. However, he remained healthy and made all 16 starts last year and evidently changed his mind about retiring over the past few weeks.
He joins a Jets team that was looking set to enter the regular season with the inexperienced Jonotthan Harrison as the starting center. Kalil signed a one-year deal worth up to $8.4 million.
Now let’s take a look at what Kalil brings to the table, divided into categories.
While it was over 12 years ago, Kalil entered the league with very good athletic numbers. He ran a 4.96 40-yard dash and posted 34 bench press reps. Kalil also posted an outstanding short shuttle (4.34). His broad jump (104”) was solid but his vertical (26”) was below average.
Obviously he’ll have lost a step or two since then, although Kalil’s 2018 film still shows he has good mobility, functional strength and movement skills.
It’s difficult to imagine any circumstance under which Kalil would play any position other than center, but it is worth noting that he made two of his three starts in his rookie season at right guard.
Kalil’s pass protection numbers have been solid over the course of his career. He got beaten for five sacks in 2010 but otherwise has never given up more than three in any season, including the playoffs.
In total, he gave up just under two pressures per game last year, as his pressure percentage was similar to what it’s been over the past five years. He gave up just two sacks, one of which was in the season opener.
Kalil gets back into his stance and does a good job of keeping his man locked down once he gets his hands on him.
He’s one of those centers that will keep his head on a swivel, ready to help out his linemates. On this play, he perhaps pays too much attention to his right guard losing leverage and loses touch with his own man, though.
Against a bull rush, he’s capable of re-anchoring even if his man initially gets traction against him. On this play, he stays in control of Damon Harrison and is able to take him down.
Over the second half of last year, the Jets’ running backs averaged just three yards per carry. However, the Panthers led the league in 2018 with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Plenty of that yardage came running behind Kalil too, as they had the 6th best average in the league when running up the middle according to PFF.
While Kalil can’t necessarily take all the credit for his team’s success, the Panthers lost both of their starting tackles in preseason. Also, his ability to elevate a functioning unit is evident on plays like this where he works in combination with his teammates.
The one thing that’s noticeable from Kalil’s 2018 film is that he does allow some penetration at the point of attack. This is presumably one area where he’s regressed as he gets older, much like Nick Mangold and Willie Colon each did. However, he’s still capable of controlling his blocks at the point of attack.
Kalil can also make good blocks in space. He takes good angles and is good at locating and sealing off his target in space. On this play, he gets out to the second level well.
He’s also got the ability to block on the move, which he displays on pulling blocks such as this one.
Kalil should add another dimension to the Jets’ offense with his ability to contribute on screen passes. He’s dominant in such situations and continues to look good getting out in front of the runner.
He does a good job of disguising rather than just making a cursory effort to stay in and then taking off downfield.
Obviously Kalil is an excellent technician in terms of hand placement, leverage and his footwork. The question is whether he still has the explosiveness to recover like he once did. On this play, for example, Gerald McCoy beats him across his face and he ends up unsuccessfully lunging to try and make the block.
Here’s a good example of some excellent technique winning him a matchup against a top player as he works solo against Harrison. Kalil uses his initial punch to set him up and then resets his feet so he can seal him off to create a lane.
As noted, he can work well in combination with his linemates. This is a perfect example as he drives his man off the line at the point of attack and then uses the right guard’s chip to reach his outside shoulder and seal his man on the inside.
Kalil has been a disciplined player over the course of his career, averaging less than three penalties a season. The most he ever had was six in 2015.
Over the past three years, he’s had six penalties including two for holding and two for face masking. Those two face mask penalties were the only two 15-yarders of his career as he hasn’t had any roughness or unsportsmanlike calls.
Kalil has had 14 false start penalties in his career, although only one of these was since 2013. Otherwise, he’s been called for 12 holding penalties.
Kalil doesn’t, and shouldn’t be expected to, contribute on special teams. He was on the field for one field goal attempt last year.
Kalil has been called a savvy vet who obviously knows how to set protections, make changes at the line and react to what happens after the ball has been snapped.
In pass protection, he has the same ability Mangold used to have where he can make one block, but be ready to switch to another assignment. Here’s a great example of that.
On this play, however, he reacts to the game upfront and picks up the stunting lineman. However, this is another example of where he makes the read and reacts but doesn’t quite have the explosiveness to get across quickly enough to prevent the pressure.
Kalil’s instincts in the open field are also good. He will keep his head up, anticipating who to block and what angle he needs to take rather than just charging recklessly down the field.
Aside from his football IQ, Kalil has intangibles which are hard to measure but sure to have an impact on this team. He has toughness, leadership abilities and experience. This will set an excellent example for some of the Jets’ young reserves.
Kalil’s father also played in the NFL and his brother Matt is also a current NFL veteran.
Kalil’s 2018 season saw him start all 16 games after having missed 18 starts in 2016 and 2017, so hopefully he’s in better shape than he has been for a while. It should take him some time to get his conditioning back though, having originally intended to retire. He is apparently back up close to his playing weight of 295 after having dropped down to 260 after the season.
Kalil had a shoulder injury in 2016 and 2017. Prior to that, his worst injury was a foot injury in 2012 that caused him to miss 11 starts. He also missed four starts with an ankle injury in 2008.
Kalil has been in the league long enough to be able to operate in a man/power scheme or a zone blocking scheme. While new offensive line coach Frank Pollack tends to employ the latter, there’s no question they’ll also run some man/power, especially now they can exploit Kalil’s ability to block on the move.
Obviously Kalil was an elite player at his peak. What’s important now though is how much he has left. It’s important to note that all the gifs included with this article are from the 2018 season, so clearly he is still capable of winning some tough matchups and making impact blocks. In this way, his film was reminiscent of Kelechi Osemele’s.
There’s no question that Kalil’s intangibles should have a multitude of positive influences on the Jets, from ensuring cohesion and chemistry with his linemates, to teaching good habits to some of the young linemen on the roster and in terms of helping Sam Darnold to read coverages and set protections.
As Jets fans will have seen when Mangold struggled to keep himself at 100 percent over his last few seasons, such a player can still be effective despite not being as consistent as they once were. You perhaps don’t realize how important such a player is until you replace them with a Wesley Johnson or Jonotthan Harrison type.
Despite their publicly stated confidence in him, starting Harrison was probably going to ensure the Jets had an inadequate line this year, especially in the running game. Adding Kalil breeds real confidence that they could now have a unit that is able to impose itself and dominate in the trenches at times.