So, here's an interesting tweet, posted during the third quarter of last night's game, when (lest we forget) the Jets were actually giving the Raiders a tough game...
Really can’t say enough about the performance of the #Jets OL. They’ve been incredible today.— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) September 17, 2017
Incredible, huh? Is this hyperbole? Did they sustain it to the end of the game? This seems like something we should investigate further.
Statistically, this holds up to an extent. The Jets averaged five yards per carry - although this was artificially bolstered by a couple of Josh McCown scrambles - and only had one run blown up for a loss. They surrendered four sacks, but three of those, along with the only other quarterback hit, were after Hughes posted his tweet.
However, was the offensive line performance actually that good or were the Jets making plays in spite of linemen losing their match-ups? Were Hughes' comments filtered through a prism of expectation that they'd never get past the line of scrimmage against this vaunted Raiders' front of Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and, um, give me a minute...is Perry Riley still there? Who? Did you make that name up?
We'll be breaking down the individual performances later on and we'll feature a couple of guys in-depth in tomorrow's "Three on O" but for now, let's look at some specific plays...
Here was, for one of the first times all season, some decent blocking up front to spring a Matt Forté first down run:
It's the interior blocking that makes this play work. Wesley Johnson carves open a lane up the middle by sealing his man to the outside with double-team help from James Carpenter. Brandon Shell and Dakota Dozier work a double-team block on the other side and Dozier is able to peel off just in time to block off a guy at the second level. It's not perfectly executed but it's good enough to spring the run.
Kelvin Beachum executes a kick-out block on the left side, away from the play. Tight end Will Tye just about manages to keep his man from blowing the whole thing up even in spite of all five linemen executing well. He almost gets pushed back into Forté, barely managing to hold his ground.
So, that's not bad. They blocked pretty well as a unit there, especially since Dozier was deputizing for the injured Brian Winters.
On this play, however, they give up a huge sack:
The starters aren't really the problem, here, though, as sixth lineman Brent Qvale gets torched off the edge and Forté does a poor job of helping him out.
A five man rush against seven blockers should never get home this easily, though, and it isn't perfect from the starters. Beachum gets beaten upfield, although in the absence of pressure from elsewhere, he'd probably have been able to give McCown a chance to step up. Johnson also lets his man get upfield on him here, causing interior pressure so McCown has no hope of escaping.
It wasn't until the Jets were already down 22 that they actually gave up a sack attributable to a starting lineman. Brandon Shell gets beaten here by a safety blitz for a strip sack:
Here's what we wrote last week:
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.
That's exactly what happened here. McCown held onto the ball for slightly too long, as he did on three of the four sacks.
Finally, the Jets drove now and scored a consolation touchdown:
This is essentially the reverse of the earlier situation, with six rushers and five staying in to block. Two players come off each edge, meaning that one is blocked and the other is unabated to the quarterback. However, this also means McCown has man coverage all over the field and he gets rid of the ball quickly shortly before becoming a sandwich filling.
The only way to handle this situation any better would be for the interior line to swell up against the interior pressure and allow the tackles to fan out a bit further to buy McCown an extra split second.
In conclusion, the line did seem to hold up well as a unit, albeit that they still have some things to work on and had a few breakdowns after Hughes proclaimed them to have been incredible.
Didn't we tell you... it could be worse?
PREVIOUSLY: Reviewing the rotations