Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with offensive lineman Dan Feeney.
The 26-year old is listed at 6’4” and 310 pounds and was a third round pick out of Indiana in 2017. In four NFL seasons, he’s started 57 games, including all 16 in each of the past three seasons. Feeney became the Chargers’ starting center in 2020 having mostly played at guard prior to last year.
Feeney was a three-star high school recruit but made an instant impact at Indiana as he was voted as a freshman all-American first-teamer and honorable mention all-Big Ten in 2012. He didn’t give up a sack in 12 starts.
Unfortunately, he missed the following season after an injury during the spring, but he returned to the starting lineup in 2014 and started 12 games. In 2015, he started all 13 games and was a first team all-American as he once again didn’t give up a single sack.
However, after deciding to return for his redshirt senior season, Feeney was out for over a month with a concussion. Nevertheless, he still was voted as a first-team all-Big Ten selection and an all-American again.
After being selected in the third round of the 2017 draft, Feeney got the opportunity to start early on in his rookie season due to injury. He ended up starting nine games.
Over the next three years, Feeney became a full-time starter and played over a thousand snaps in each season. The Jets signed Feeney to a one-year deal when his contract expired after the 2020 season.
Now let’s take a look at what Feeney brings to the table, divided into categories.
Feeney’s profile in terms of his measurables is solid, as he is above average across the board. He ran a 5.24 in the 40-yard dash and posted 26 bench press reps at his combine workout.
However, his best number was 7.52 in the three cone drill, which was third best among all offensive linemen at the 2017 combine. He also displays this kind of athletic ability on the field when blocking on the move.
Feeney has good versatility, having mostly played at left guard in his first three seasons and then moved to center last year. In his rookie year, Feeney played eight snaps at center and 22 at right guard while in a reserve role. He also played some snaps as a jumbo package tight end.
He had previously made one start and filled in twice at center in 2019 due to Mike Pouncey getting hurt but took over the starting role full time when Pouncey was ruled out for the 2020 season in September.
In college, Feeney mostly played at right guard, but his last five starts saw him kick out to right tackle. He also played some defensive line in high school.
Feeney came into the NFL with a good reputation as a pass protector, having given up just two sacks in 46 career starts.
He backed this up as a rookie, when he gave up just one sack. However, he struggled in his first season as a full-time starter, giving up eight sacks and leading all NFL interior linemen in total pressures surrendered. He improved slightly in 2019, although he still gave up the fourth-highest pressure count of all interior linemen.
2020 and the move to center was another improvement albeit that he was still in the top 10 in that category.
When pass blocking, Feeney can be susceptible to initial quickness at the snap - a problem exacerbated by his move to center which required him to snap the ball and then drop into his stance. He got beaten across the face quite regularly. He can also be susceptible to being driving into the backfield by bull rushers.
Here’s a play where he shows some of his growth in this area, staying on his man well with good hand control and then finishing aggressively.
Feeney will sometimes operate as the spare man in pass protection, keeping his head on a swivel to assist a teammate where necessary.
Feeney’s athleticism and strength can make him an asset in the running game. He does a solid job at the point of attack on pro bowler Kenny Clark here.
Feeney is able to get out on the move well, with a decent ability to pull and trap. On this play he pulls out to the left to create an outside lane for the runner.
Within a zone blocking system, his ability to beat his man to a spot and gain a leverage advantage on their outside shoulder will be valuable.
Unfortunately, Feeney isn’t always consistent in the running game. For example, against the Jets last year, he surrendered a lot of penetration as he struggled to hold up at the point of attack against their defensive line talent. He’ll also allow his man to get off his block and make a play on a regular basis.
The Chargers were not particularly successful at the goal line in 2020. They only had six rushing touchdowns from inside the four yard line, all of which were from the one. Three of these were on quarterback sneaks.
In 2019, Feeney had a rough sequence in the final minute of a three point loss to the Titans. First of all, he false started on 1st-and-goal at the one. Then, after a pass interference call, Melvin Gordon was stuffed twice at the goal line to preserve the Titans’ win.
Feeney showcases his athleticism well on screen passes, often getting out in front of the ball to make downfield blocks, although he doesn’t always square up his man perfectly in space. He also shows some good hustle to make screen blocks closer to the line.
While Feeney exhibits good hand placement and control, he can get sloppy with this sometimes. As noted, when his pad level is not low enough, he can be susceptible to the bull rush and can get off balance, allowing his man to get off his blocks.
Although he has good athletic ability, there are signs he can sometimes struggle to step across and recover when reacting to a jab step or picking up a blitzer. This can lead to him lunging after his man rather than staying on top of him.
In terms of discipline, Feeney has been called for 19 penalties in his career, of which 11 were for holding. However, none of these were personal fouls and he had a career-low two penalties in 2020.
Feeney’s main contributions on special teams have come as a blocker on the placekicking unit. However, he has allowed his man to get through and deflect the kick on a couple of occasions.
He’s also seen some limited action as a blocker on the kickoff return unit. Within that role, he made a couple of good blocks - one on a double team and one on a kick-out - but neither led to a long return.
Feeney is considered to have good smarts, as evidenced by his ability to contribute at multiple positions. He reportedly scored a solid 29 on the Wonderlic test at the 2017 scouting combine.
There were, however, times where he appeared to be confused in pass protection. On this play, the linebacker shows blitz and drops out but Feeney is late to anticipate the edge stunting up the middle from the other side.
On this play, Feeney is preoccupied with battling his man in the trenches and doesn’t anticipate the stunting end who knocks him off his block, placing his teammate in an impossible 2-on-1 situation.
Feeney has also had some issues with pre-snap penalties. He has false started five times in his career so far.
Feeney is quite a character, as you can tell immediately from his mustache and mullet combination. He clearly was a popular player with the Chargers and reportedly has a close bond with quarterback Justin Herbert.
He’s a two-time captain with high standards and a good work ethic in practice and in the weight room and showed maturity by returning for his senior season to fine tune his techniques.
On the field, he shows toughness, aggressiveness and hustle on the field and will go “looking for work” in pass protection.
However, there was a similar play like this where he vacated a double team block on Chris Jones to light up the left tackle’s man in similar fashion, only for this to inevitably lead to a Jones sack.
Feeney has established himself as a mainstay over the past three seasons and hasn’t missed any time due to injuries in his professional career so far. That durability is probably a big part of why the Jets targeted him in free agency.
In college, he had a concussion in his redshirt senior season from which it took several weeks to be cleared. He also missed the entire 2013 season after suffering a Lisfranc fracture in his foot during preseason.
Feeney is a player whose athleticism is underrated and should equip him well to play within John Benton’s blocking schemes. His versatility is also a big factor because it will allow him to compete at all three inside positions.
At Indiana, Feeney was one of the blockers behind whom Tevin Coleman made a name for himself and the pair will be reunited on the 2021 Jets. He has also been a teammate of current Jets kicker Chase McLaughlin.
On the face of it, Feeney would seem to be a useful replacement for the Pat Elflein/Josh Andrews role. He may not start, but can fill in at any of the three interior spots and the Jets will hope he can be an upgrade over Elflein and Andrews as the number four interior line option.
They may also hold out hope that he can develop into starter. While Feeney hasn’t graded out as well as the likes of Alex Lewis or Greg Van Roten in the past few years, that may be a product of the fact that the Chargers had some injuries and he was surrounded by a group of linemen that all seemed to struggle. The Jets’ offensive line doesn’t have much of reputation either, but it’s possible Feeney’s own play could benefit from playing alongside a more consistent group.
This is only a one-year deal and shouldn’t make or break the offseason, but it has the potential to work out well without there being much of a downside if Feeney doesn’t have much of an impact.