To say the New York Jets’ have undergone a transformation on offense is to put it lightly. The most pronounced of these changes is the arrival of quarterback Aaron Rodger to replace previous starting quarterback Zach Wilson, but this is far from the only change as Nathaniel Hackett replaces Matt LeFleur as offensive coordinator and Allen Lazard replaces Elijah Moore in the Jets’ wide receiver depth chart, among other changes.
By comparison, one area that has not seen many changes is the offensive line. For Jets fans, this is concerning because the 2022 Jets offensive line was considered to be rather bad. Building on top of that, the Jets paid a pretty penny to acquire Aaron Rodgers, so we can assume that throwing the ball will be a prominent feature in the offense... which is concerning if your offensive line is indeed bad.
But the real question isn’t how the Jets’ 2022 offensive line did but rather what their 2023 offensive line will do. While concerns are justified whenever such a key position group has question marks, the question marks around the Jets may be a bit overstated... at least in the talent department.
Specifically, the Jets may not have added much to their 2023 offensive line, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have reinforcements coming via players returning from injury, and talented ones at that. Specifically, recent first round picks offensive tackle Mekhi Becton and offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker both suffered season ending injuries last season, preventing either from making much of a impact. While injury risks are still abound for these players (as well as any player who plays a sport as violent as NFL football), the talent levels are adequate based on past performance (Becton’s most recent overall PFF grade was 74.4 and Vera-Tucker’s was 71.8). Adding these to the existing line of might just help improve the group to a level of acceptability.
In further support of that hope, a recent projection of pass blocking quality for the 2023 season actually ranked the Jets’ very positively based on their expected stats, with their overall score ranking 11th in the league, a respectable number that should keep Aaron Rodgers upright at an acceptable rate.
Here is my best data-driven guess at how good each team's offensive line might be expected to be in pass protection given its 5 projected starters pic.twitter.com/qaKAfD9Q3k— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) July 26, 2023
In looking deeper at these figures, Ben Baldwin (@ComputerCowboy on Twitter) came to these numbers by examining the past performance of the team’s projected starters. For the Jets, this yielded favorable outcomes because their current projected starters haven’t really pass blocking all that poorly when they’ve been the field to pass block. In fact, beyond the low estimate given to a rookie center in Joe Tippman, Alijah Vera-Tucker was actually the Jets lowest scorer in this estimate and he is generally considered to be a pretty good player.
AFC East- hopefully Mekhi Becton can stay healthy he was fun pic.twitter.com/LJwwe5yxmx— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) July 27, 2023
All in all, this data suggests that the Jets pass blocking may not be the sieve that many expect. The biggest issue for the Jets offensive line, at least in pass blocking, does appear to be health. Additionally, an optimistic fan could also note that these scores leave the Jets with plenty of room for improvement as rookie center Joe Tippmann and offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker both scored poorly but are both high potential players that could easily exceed these expectations.