“Football is a game of wills,” Douglas told reporters back in 2019. “We’re going to try to build a team that can impose their will on other teams and to do that you have to be strong up front.”
Joe Douglas, the former offensive lineman had a vision, a vision which mimicked those he’d seen in Baltimore and Philadelphia. A vision around competent QB play and a dominating offensive line, one where the “will” of the Jets was stronger than that of the opposition, through 2020 and three games of 2021, that vision is still unrealized.
During Greg Van Roten’s press conference last night, he said that Zach needed to “learn to get the ball out”. While there is an element of truth in that comment, it seems ironic that the 57th best-rated guard (through two games according to PFF), a guard who has allowed 15 pressures and 2 sacks in just three games, was offering advice to a first-year player on how to do his job.
When Douglas took over the Jets general manager position, he made the offensive line a priority. For those who were around to see the great Jets offensive lines that included players like Kevin Mawae, Nick Mangold, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Brandon Moore, that was a welcome comment.
In 2020 Douglas set about starting that offensive line renaissance. He drafted Becton with his first-round pick and signed Connor McGovern to a 3 year $27 million contract, which included $18 million guaranteed. He then signed Greg Van Roten to a 3 year $10.5 million contract and George Fant to a 3 year $27.3 million contract with $13.7 million guaranteed.
Joe was confident in his 2020 business and the expectation was that the Jets would be significantly better at protecting Sam Darnold, unfortunately, the reality was quite different.
The Jets offensive line was ranked as the 29th best unit in the league according to PFF. They allowed 2.7 sacks her game which was in the lower third in the league, they allowed pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 28% of dropbacks, the worst rate in the league. The line failed to gain a rush for the running backs, with Jets RB’s averaging just 1.1 yards before contact, the 3rd worst mark in the league.
Connor McGovern was rated as one of the worst pass-blocking centers in 2020, Greg Van Roten was average at best, but has declined further this year.
In short, the Jets 2020 offensive line was poor. It allowed too much pressure and failed to open up lanes for the running backs, the two fundamental jobs of the line.
So Joe Douglas decided to dive back into the offensive line market. He drafted Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 2nd first-round pick, signed Morgan Moses to a one-year $3.6 million contract, brought in Dan Feeney on a one-year $3.5 million contract.
So in total Joe Douglas has provided the offensive line with 5 new starters when you consider the lineup that was embarrassed by Denver last night. George Fant at LT, Alijah Vera-Tucker at LG, Connor McGovern at C, Greg Van Roten at RG and Morgan Moses at RT. All the work of Joe Douglas, but so far through three games we have seen little reward.
In 2021, Zach Wilson is being sacked at a rate of 12.50% of dropbacks. For a little context, Sam Darnold was sacked at a rate of 7.93% last season. It’s not all on the offensive line, the Jets continue to run a lot of 12 personnel with two tight ends who are struggling to find their feet in the blocking game, but a lot of it is absolutely on the hand-picked offensive line of Joe Douglas.
While the Jets opened up some rushing room against the Patriots, they again failed to create any space against Denver. Through the first three games of the season, the Jets don’t have a rushing TD.
Outside of the stats of the unit as a whole and the individual components (which aren’t good across the board). There are worrying signs for a line that consists of four veterans. Against Denver, the line failed to communicate on numerous occasions and again struggled with picking up a simple stunt. We know what we have with McGovern, Fant and Van Roten and it’s not good.
It’s too soon to say what Becton will become, and it’s certainly too soon to make a call on Vera-Tucker, a player who has flashed as a run-blocker but struggled in pass protection. Maybe the line gels a little bit as the season goes, but this offensive line is not good enough to take the Jets anywhere close to a championship.
I’m not as anti-Douglas as some people are, he has some good moves on his record, but the construction of the offensive line is at this point, his biggest failure.
There is one positive I can take from his first attempt at a re-build, outside of the faith I have in AVT and Becton is the construction of the contracts.
Moving onto 2022 the Jets can escape from their mistakes relatively pain-free.
According to Over The Cap the Jets can cut Connor McGovern and save $9 million while only having to write off $1.3 million. Greg Van Roten can be cut to save $3 million with no cap hit, George Fant can be cut to save $9.6 million while only writing off $1 million.
Joe Douglas got his first offensive line re-build wrong, but he will get another go. It’s key that he gets the next one right.