It could be worse: Pass protection edition

Most of the media, many of whom were predicting the Jets would go 0-16 and be the worst ever team in the history of western civilization even before they lost the likes of David Harris, Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa, is feeling emboldened. Somehow the Jets nine-point loss on the road to a division rival vindicates their prognostications. They are what we thought they were.

However, the Jets were far from the trainwreck we were told to expect, if not promised. They didn't turn the ball over until late, they only gave up one sack, they put together a 75-yard touchdown drive ... in fact, what seemed to let them down most of all were the things most of the media were expecting to actually be quite good.

Ultimately, it looks like the Jets are indeed going to be bad. However, they may fall short of being the worst team that ever teamed in the history of teams.

In an occasional series, we'll consider an area where - as bad as things may be - there are other teams who, at least temporarily, seem to have it worse.

We'll start this week by looking at the pass protection. The narrative all preseason was that the Jets couldn't evaluate their young quarterbacks properly because they'd be running for their lives behind a terrible offensive and that Josh McCown was destined to see his season end prematurely once again due to injury.

However, in week one, the Jets gave up just one sack, which was actually not attributable to the offensive line. (McCown failed to see an unblocked backside rusher chasing him down from behind as he rolled right).

McCown was under pressure about a quarter of the time; a fact largely attributable to the Jets' gameplan which saw him releasing the ball early on a high percentage of his throws. However, when they were required to hold up for longer, the Jets' front provided McCown with some clean pockets and when they did surrender pressure, much of it came via stunts or because extra blockers like Will Tye and Matt Forté got beaten.

The Jets offensive line is probably going to look bad in comparison over these first couple of weeks because their opponents have superior continuity. For the Jets, Kelvin Beachum is a brand new starter and the other four-fifths of the line have only played together once - in a 34-13 loss to Miami last year that saw Brian Winters leave early with a season ending injury. Wesley Johnson and Brandon Shell entered the season with 11 starts between them.

By contrast, the Bills brought back the same five starters as last year and yet still gave up two sacks and three hits, although they did well in the running game. The Raiders, who had one of the best offensive lines in the league last year, bring back four-fifths of that line, albeit that Donald Penn only recently returned from an offseason holdout. They are downgraded at right tackle, where Marshall Newhouse is starting with youngster Vadal Alexander also seeing some reps.

It's a common theme around the league that the proliferation of spread passing attacks in college football has left today's offensive line prospects ill-equipped to handle NFL assignments. So, we're seeing a lot of raw linemen learning on the job or former back-ups forced into starting roles because the pipeline of developmental talent is running dry.

There's even an example of this on the Jets' line, where Wesley Johnson - a career back-up - now finds himself in a role that suggests he's now one of the best 32 centers in the NFL; an assertion his play so far seems to be backing up.

Also, at right tackle, Brandon Shell perhaps isn't ready to be a full-time starter, but the team is scheming around that fact so he can learn on the job.

If Shell was a cornerback, he'd be at his best in press coverage, getting his hands on his man at the snap and controlling him. He'd struggle if playing off coverage and having to latch onto his man down the field. When forced to block on an island, Shell can use his length and strength to push his man upfield and allow the quarterback to get a quick throw off, but if the play gets extended, that pass rusher is going to be able to circle back and get to the quarterback. So far the Jets have given Shell outside help and put him in situations where he can be the aggressor at the snap by blocking down or throwing quickly.

Despite these concessions, the Jets' pass protection doesn't seem to be in bad shape. Remember how bad they looked in preseason? It seems that much of that was because the young quarterbacks weren't anticipating the pressure and, in some cases, failing to set the protection correctly. We already highlighted how McCown reset the protection to set up one of his biggest throws on Sunday, in an identical situation to one in which each of the Jets' young passers has got themselves nailed in the past.

So, while it could be better, it definitely could be worse. Here's three teams, who - based on Sunday's game - would kill to have the Jets' situation:

Seattle. The Seahawks had what was already probably the worst offensive line in the NFL, but did little to upgrade it this offseason. They brought in former number two draft pick Luke Joeckel, who now toils at guard having struggled to make it as a tackle, but otherwise kept last year's group intact. They used a second round pick on Ethan Pocic, but he's clearly not ready.

When they lost George Fant - the former basketball player who came from nowhere to become the Seahawks starting left tackle last year - to a season ending injury, it shouldn't have been too difficult to replace him, especially since he graded out as one of the NFL's worst linemen last year.

However, the best they could do was put Rees Odhiambo - a second year player who was mostly a back-up guard as a rookie - out there for for his first NFL start. Seattle ended up running fewer than 50 offensive plays in a game they lost 17-9, as they struggled to sustain drives. However, they still allowed Russell Wilson to be knocked down eight times.

We shudder to think how much further this line could sink if they lost their best lineman, center Justin Britt, for any length of time.

Arizona. The Cardinals' issues on Sunday serve as the best possible example of how fragile the level of depth is on many teams due to the scarcity of linemen who are equipped to play well at this level.

An early injury to DJ Humphries forced him out of the game and the Cardinals turned to John Wetzel, who was completely exposed at left tackle, beaten over and over again. He surrendered a sack and a hit with a pressure count that was comfortably into double figures when all was said and done.

Wetzel also started eight games last year due to injury and struggled then as well. However, the Cardinals don't have any better options and Wetzel is expected to start the next game and probably the game after that as Humphries recovers from his knee injury. They'll probably be compelled to rush Humphries back before he's 100% if Wetzel continues to struggle this badly.

Depth seems to be an area where the Jets have it good over many other teams. Ben Ijalana, Dakota Dozier and Brent Qvale all started multiple games for the Jets last year and they didn't really miss a beat. Jonotthan Harrison has also started multiple games with the Colts. Say what you like about this Jets' unit, but one injury probably wouldn't make that much difference. In fact, they might be better equipped to handle three or four injuries than many teams would cope with one.

Houston. The team that had it worst in pass protection on Sunday was definitely the Texans, though.

Again, the lack of offensive line talent at the NFL level is dramatically exposed when the Texans had a couple of guys missing and the whole line fell apart because of it.

The Texans have Duane Brown holding out, Derek Newton on the PUP list and Chris Clark on the bench after having been injured for most of preseason. This led to them starting Kendall Lamm and Breno Giacomini at tackle. The results were ugly, as the Texans gave up a franchise record 10 sacks with Giacomini constantly getting beaten off the edge and the rest of the line struggling to handle stunts and blitz schemes.

Greg Mancz was probably one of their best linemen last year, but he's been replaced by youngster Nick Martin at center. However, he looks set to return following another injury to guard Jeff Allen. Mancz already saw some playing time on Sunday because Xavier Su'a-Filo was struggling so bad he got benched.

Brown's return would help to an extent, but this appears to be a group that was already going to be bad before losing a couple of guys. Clark graded out as one of the worst starting tackles in the league last year, so they can't really expect him to help much either.

Unlike the first two examples, they don't have an established veteran at quarterback and that perhaps makes as much difference as the personnel issues on the line. It doesn't help that they're so banged-up at tight end they had to activate a guy off the practice squad this week just so that had a healthy one for tonight's game.

Now, over to you guys for the fun part. See if you can find some examples of bad offensive line play from around the league over the first week and share the gifs, tweets or video clips in the comments...