Over the next few months, we’ll be providing an in-depth scouting report for each of the Jets’ undrafted free agents. We continue today with offensive lineman Jared Hilbers.
Hilbers, who went to college at Washington, is listed at 6’6” and 310 pounds and was a two-year starter for the Huskies, where he played both tackle positions.
Hilbers was considered one of the top offensive line prospects in Oregon and rated as a three-star recruit after initially playing basketball in high school. He eventually accepted a scholarship at Washington, where he redshirted his freshman year in 2015.
He was a reserve in 2016 and 2017, where he played a total of 84 snaps but never made a start.
Hilbers finally got a chance to be a starter in 2018 when Trey Adams suffered a back injury before the season. He started the first 11 games but then got hurt and went back to the bench as Adams returned for the last few games.
In his senior year, Hilbers started every game and graded out well. However, at the end of the season he wasn’t invited to the scouting combine.
Despite a solid showing at the East West Shrine Game, Hilbers went undrafted. However, the Jets did guarantee $50,000 of his salary and paid him a $12,000 signing bonus when they signed him as a priority undrafted free agent.
Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Hilbers brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Hilbers was relunctant to bulk up too much in high school because he still wanted to play basketball so he was only listed at 275 when he first arrived at Washington. However, he had bulked up to around 315 by his junior year. He is said to have narrow shoulders and hips, though, and his arms are extremely short at just under 31½ inches.
On film, Hilbers shows some signs of athletic ability but his explosion off the line and ability to recover can be inconsistent. His foot speed was reportedly one of the main things that teams admired about Hilbers, although Pro Football Focus referred to him as a “plodder”.
His background in basketball obviously helps him in terms of his speed and movement skills.
Hilbers played on both sides with Washington. He was the backup at left tackle as a redshirt freshman, then right tackle as a sophomore, then started 11 games at left tackle for Adams in his junior year before coming the full-time starter at right tackle as a senior. He played left tackle in the bowl game, though.
In short yardage situations, the Huskies would often go to an unbalanced line so Hilbers would move to the other side of the formation and line up on the tackle’s outside shoulder as a jumbo package tight end.
In high school, Hilbers was initially a blocking tight end and defensive lineman. He returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown in one game.
Due to his lack of length and body type, Hilbers seems almost certain to move to guard at the NFL level. Although he didn’t play any snaps there at Washington, he played 13 snaps at right guard in the Shrine Bowl and acquitted himself well.
Hilbers has fared well as a pass blocker in his two years as a starter, giving up two sacks in each season. In fact he managed to go all the way up to week 12 without surrendering one in each year. He’s also only allowed about one pressure per game on average and never more than three in any one game.
The Huskies operated a lot of inside-out protection schemes whereby their tackles were required to funnel the pass rushers upfield and force them to go the long way around. They also often get their tackles to cut block edge rushers, especially on quick and short passes.
On this play, Hilbers is able to stay in front of the edge defender and repels his inside counter to buy time for the throw.
He hasn’t faced too many NFL-level edge rushers while with the Huskies and they give their tackles plenty of help anyway. He barely matched up with Chase Young in the 2018 bowl game, but did help hold Curtis Weaver to one of his quietest games of last year in their 2019 bowl game.
There are still questions about Hilbers’ ability to hold up against the NFL’s more athletic edge defenders, though. Here’s a play where he doesn’t get back into his stance quick enough to prevent the edge rusher from getting around the edge.
On the other hand, he gets back into his stance here, but isn’t balanced enough to respond to the inside move.
Hilbers has shown development in terms of his consistency as a run blocker over the course of his career. He demonstrates some good strength and an ability to control his block at the point of attack on this play.
He has also shown an ability to get out to the second level and make blocks in space as he does here.
However, he is perhaps too athletically limited to carry out some assignments. He’s not explosive enough out of his stance to make this reach block for example.
Nevertheless, Washington did run a lot of plays like jet sweeps where he might be required to move laterally and lock on to a block and he proved capable of doing this.
Moving to guard looks like it could suit him. He did a nice job on this pulling block in the Shrine Bowl.
Hilbers can get a positive surge in short yardage situations, creating some running room on plays like this one.
As noted, in short yardage situations, Hilbers often swapped sides and moved into a jumbo tight end role as the Huskies went with an unbalanced line.
You can see an example of a play where the ball carrier ran behind him at guard for this short yardage conversion at the Shrine Bowl.
Although the Huskies had a couple of speedy backs you’d have thought would have been threats out of the backfield, they didn’t seem to have that much success on screen passes.
Here’s one example where they ran a good one, although Hilbers himself failed to make a block.
One of the things Hilbers does well is that he has natural knee bend and sinks his hips in pass protection. This trait, which presumably comes from good habits picked up during his time as a basketball player, gives him a good foundation.
He has sound fundamentals in places but does also have a few technical issues that need to be cleaned up. In pass protection, he can be inconsistent with his hand placement. This will means that pass rushers can get his hands off them to leverage their way around the edge.
Also, as noted earlier, he can have a narrow base which means he can be moved off his spot with a solid first punch and can be susceptible to a good bull rush.
In the running game, his main issue is that he fails to control his blocks sometimes. This is probably a symptom of his short arms and, at times, leads to him lunging after his block and allowing his man to fall off it.
Hilbers has had good on-field discipline with only four penalties in his two years as a starter. His only penalty in 2019 came on a stretch run where he was called for holding on the outside to negate a first down.
Hilbers didn’t play much on special teams until his final season when he was a fixture on the placekicking unit. Prior to that he also had a few snaps on the field goal and punt block units, perhaps due to his height.
Washington seemed to be a team that was extremely well-coached on the offensive line and Hilbers, who was an academic all-Pac 12 selection in 2018, seemed to handle his assignments well.
Sometimes, they would operate slide protection so the guard could kick out and pick up the defensive end and the tackle could drop off to pick up the blitz off the edge. Hilbers generally handled this well, although there was one play where he blocked down and the rusher came off the edge for a sack. That may have been the fault of whoever was in charge of the line calls, though.
Against stunts, the line as a whole usually was well-organized in picking those up. There were a few lapses though and even one or two plays where Hilbers appeared to get a bit lost and give up on the play.
Hilbers showed a willingness to be a team-first player with his next man up attitude towards his fill-in role on either side. He seems to be a coachable player who works hard to improve his conditioning and technique and doesn’t have any off-field concerns.
His physicality, an area he has had to work hard at, has been praised but there were still too many plays where he ended up on the floor or didn’t play to the whistle.
Hilbers’ only real injury issue in college was a mild ankle sprain right at the end of the 2018 season. Adams had returned at that time anyway, so it’s possible Hilbers would have gone back to the bench in any case.
He returned to see some rotational action a few weeks later and started every game in 2019.
As noted, it seems likely the Jets see Hilbers as a guard, but it wouldn’t be surprising for them to give him a shot at the tackle position too, just to test his comfort level.
In terms of the similarities between the Huskies’ system and that of the Jets, their protection schemes and running game both have plenty in common so he should take to it well.
None of his current teammates went to Washington but he was a teammate of Bryce Huff’s at the Shrine Bowl.
Hilbers shows some promise but he’s a little raw, so it will take him some time to realize that potential in light of his less than ideal measurables.
Having never played guard before, he was thrown into the fire at the Shrine Bowl and looked pretty good. Hopefully that’s a sign he’ll take to the position well if the Jets move him as expected. He’ll then have a chance to develop quickly and try to earn himself a chance to stick around on the practice squad with a view to potentially getting his feet wet late in the season.