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By: Michael Nania
Give credit to the New York Jets’ coaches for keeping the undermanned offensive line afloat
The New York Jets‘ offensive line has been dealing with an injury epidemic since long before the 2022 regular season began – specifically at the tackle position.
New York has seen five tackles miss time due to injury: Mekhi Becton, Duane Brown, George Fant, Max Mitchell, and Alijah Vera-Tucker (Vera-Tucker began the season at guard but eventually moved to tackle due to the injuries).
Because of these injuries, the Jets have had nine different offensive linemen take snaps for them this year, and they have been forced to use four different starting offensive line combinations. They currently have two offensive linemen on the active roster who were not on the team in any capacity when the season began.
Offensive lines that deal with this much disarray should be abysmal. It’s a position predicated upon communication and chemistry. You’re not supposed to be able to thrive when you’re shuffling the deck every two weeks.
But against all odds, the Jets’ offensive line has somehow maintained respectability.
New York’s offensive line was a key cog in the team’s 20-17 upset win over the Buffalo Bills. In both the pass game and the run game, the Jets’ makeshift front-five dominated the line of scrimmage.
The Week 9 duel against Buffalo marked the second consecutive game in which this crew started together:
- LT: Duane Brown
- LG: Laken Tomlinson
- C: Connor McGovern
- RG: Nate Herbig
- RT: Cedric Ogbuehi
All five players were stout in pass protection. Across 29 pass-blocking snaps, the Jets’ offensive linemen were credited with allowing only one pressure (which was tagged to Herbig). Four of the five players pitched shutouts. Clean pockets were common for quarterback Zach Wilson.
It is important to note that the offensive line certainly got plenty of help from a quick-hitting passing attack. Wilson averaged a career-low 2.39 seconds from snap to throw, which ranks fifth-fastest among qualified quarterbacks in Week 9. Still, even with the help of quick passes, it is extremely impressive for an entire offensive line to be credited with allowing one measly pressure in an entire game.
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The ground game is where the Jets’ offensive line really shined. New York rushed for 174 yards in a clock-controlling offensive performance. It stands as the team’s second-best rushing total of the season.
Running backs Michael Carter and James Robinson combined to rush for 124 yards on 25 carries (5.0 per carry). Carter scored a walk-in rushing touchdown from six yards out thanks to stupendous blocking up front, highlighted by McGovern, Herbig, and Ogbuehi.
Michael Carter Touchdown #Jets #ProHeels pic.twitter.com/b1JFkcbDDp
— Jarrod (@jhardy575) November 6, 2022
Robinson scored on a seven-yard screen pass that was set up by a great open-field block from Herbig.
I can’t wait to watch this OL film. What a fantastic game by them in both pass blocking and run blocking.
One guy who stood out to me very often… Nate Herbig. Upon first watch, it seemed like he BALLED. Watch him on Robinson’s TD! pic.twitter.com/OnjWqFxqaI
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) November 7, 2022
The highlight of the day for New York’s offensive line was a 13-play, 86-yard drive in the fourth quarter that not only put the Jets in the lead, but chewed up over six minutes of clock and all three of Buffalo’s timeouts. New York ran the ball on the first eight plays of the drive and gained 73 yards on those, averaging 9.1 yards per carry. Snap after snap, the Jets’ offensive line imposed its will on Buffalo’s top-ranked defense, creating room for Carter and Robinson to make plays.
Enjoy James Robinson, Michael Carter, and the #Jets OL pounding the rock all the way down the field to eat up 6:08 of clock and all three BUF timeouts pic.twitter.com/4THCa89hje
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) November 7, 2022
Give credit to head coach Robert Saleh and his staff, specifically offensive line coach John Benton. Despite the constant rotation of players, Benton has been yanking enough production out of this unit for the Jets to continue winning football games. Guys seem to be stepping right in and quickly understanding their roles in the scheme.
New York’s season could have been ruined by the onslaught of injuries to the offensive line. Instead, the Jets have been able to stay on schedule.
The Jets have braved the toughest part of their offensive line journey (so far), as reinforcements are expected to arrive after the bye week. Tackles George Fant and Max Mitchell are expected to be activated off injured reserve.
It will be interesting to see how Benton and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur decide to manage the offensive line once Fant and Mitchell return. There will be plenty of options. Regardless of what they decide, Jets fans can rest easy knowing Benton has earned the benefit of the doubt. He’s continuously gotten this injury-stricken offensive line to perform far better than it has any right to.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor