Jets Off-Season Focus: Dominate the Trenches

The Jets OL in 2009-2010 was an unstoppable force.

The success of the Jets on their run in 2009-2010, was obviously in significant part due to their defense. This defense was led by Darrelle Revis and had other guys like David Harris, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Kerry Rhodes. That defense was stacked, and they understandably headlined that team during those AFC Championship runs.

Of course, there were some unsung heroes during these runs as well. Most of which occupied the space in the trenches.

Ground and Pound

In order to make a run like that, though, the offense needs to be doing something right. The Jets went to two straight AFC Championship games with a rookie and second-year starter in Mark Sanchez. That doesn’t just happen. The offensive line for the Jets in those two seasons is still the most overlooked part of any Jets team since the turn of the century.

This offensive line was anchored by Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Alan Faneca, and Damien Woody. That offensive line was stacked! Thomas Jones ran for over 1,400 yards, which was his best season in a 12 year NFL career. It is not a coincidence that it was behind that offensive line.

A rookie by the name of Shonn Greene also busted on to the national scene during the playoff run. People remember him for his playoff runs against Indianapolis and San Diego. Still, they don’t remember that he rushed for almost 500 yards on five yards per carry during the regular season.

The Jets were a ground and pound team and you cannot have that mindset without a top tier offensive line.

Terrible Jets Offensive Line

Take this as you will, but according to PFF, six of the 10 highest-rated offensive lines in the NFL made the playoffs. You may notice that in these rankings, the Jets are ranked 28th.

The Jets just signed LeVeon Bell last offseason, but he had no room to operate because of a horrid offensive line. It was so bad in fact that the Jets finished dead last in rushing yards before contact.

Sam Darnold was sacked 33 times in 13 games, and it probably should have been a whole lot worse. Sam moves around great in the pocket. He also makes some questionable throws in the face of pressure, but can you really blame him? He faces pressure on almost every snap. The Jets were the second-worst in football allowing pressure on Sam in less than 2.5 seconds almost 28% of the time.

For a team that is trying to develop a franchise quarterback, you would think the offensive line would be a focal point. Well, last year it wasn’t. They lured Ryan Kalil out of retirement, but that didn’t pay off at all! The offensive line needs to be the first, second, and third items on the agenda this year.

Free Agency

It will all start with free agency on March 18th at 4:00 p.m. The Jets should get in touch with these guys as early as possible.

Brandon Scherff is one of the best Guards in football. The Jets would be wise to give him a call in March.

Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff, and Jack Conklin. Even Amari Cooper should get a call, but not until after they have reached out to the three best offensive linemen on the market. Last year the Jets made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by signing Bell. This year they need to be less flashy and sign guys to open up holes for their $52 million running back.

This offense with a competent offensive line could be pretty formidable, even if they lose out on Robby Anderson. LeVeon Bell’s efficiency would skyrocket, and we can finally see if Sam Darnold is the franchise quarterback every Jet fan is craving.

Jets Draft Picks

The Jets have the 11th pick in the 2020 draft. If they swing and miss on the three guys mentioned above, they NEED to draft an offensive lineman. I don’t care what they have to do, but they need to get one of the following three guys:

Andrew Thomas-OT

Tristan Wirfs-OT

Jedrick Wills Jr.-OT

People will say that a wide receiver is the better route to go, but this wide receiver class is loaded. There are plenty of second or third round guys who may be worth the risk.

Jedrick Wils is considered to be one of the best OL prospects in the NFL Draft this year.
Nov 17, 2018; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Jedrick Wills Jr. (74) during the second half against The Citadel Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Mel Kiper’s first-round Mock Draft has Wils heading to the Jets at 11. That would be ideal because the Jets will then have the ability to draft someone like Michael Pittman Jr. or Jalen Reagor in the second round.

I genuinely think that drafting a generational talent on the offensive line could change the fortune of this franchise for a long time.

All of this changes, though, if they sign two or even one of the top offensive lineman on the market (which I don’t see happening). However, if the Jets can manage to sign Scherff and Conklin, they are probably better off snagging the best wide receiver they can.

Jets Off-Season Outlook

The Jets are going to lose Robby Anderson. I have come to grips with that already. That means they need to find one, if not two, reliable wide receivers in the offseason. I genuinely believe that it all starts in the trenches, though. Even mediocre receivers can get open if the quarterback is given enough time to throw the ball.

You have to go all the way back to the 2013 NFL Draft to find an instance where the Jets spend more than 50% of their picks on offensive players. Every year since then has been an even split or more defensive players than offensive players. With Sam Darnold being the face of this team, for now, you need to build around him.

In the end, how the Jets enter the draft is entirely dependent on what they do in free agency. Once the Jets make some moves or stand pat, we will all know what needs to happen in the draft. In typical Jets fashion, they will probably mess it up, but who knows. Maybe they are turning over a new leaf with General Manager Joe Douglas.

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