The New York Jets might have an unsettling quarterback situation but make no mistake about it, their most important player heading into 2016 is offensive lineman Ryan Clady.
While the quarterback situation is getting all the buzz and the addition of running back Matt Forte got the most excitement as the biggest signing for the Jets, it time to give the hogs some love.
One thing is true. The Jets don’t have a franchise quarterback. Some say you need one to win, but do you really? Peyton Manning just won the Super Bowl on his last legs and wasn’t the same quarterback we came to adore. He was definitely a shell of himself and rode the coattails of a top defense to a title.
Football is the ultimate team game. While the quarterback touches the ball on every play, the left tackle protects the quarterback’s blindside, and that is key to success.
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While the quarterback makes many primary decisions, the offensive line is the most important unit on the field.
Timing is so integral to offensive production. If the quarterback doesn’t have time to process the information the defense is giving him, the offense will fail, period.
The success of the passing game has always had much to do with the offensive line. According to Football Outsiders, the Jets’ pass blocking was one the best in the NFL.
Football Outsiders defines adjusted sack rate as: “Adjusted Sack Rate adds adjustments for opponent quality, as well as down and distance (sacks are more common on third down, especially third-and-long).”
That being said, the run blocking needs to be improved. According to Football Outsiders, the Jets ranked worse than 20th in the league in almost all run directions. However, off of the right end, they were second. Despite what looked like great power running by Chris Ivory, runs up the middle only garnered 3.62 yards per carry:
The combination of a quick and agile running back and a talent like Clady is key for the offense’s ability to run to the left. According to stats.com, Clady has only allowed 29 sacks in 98 games in his career
While the Denver Broncos didn’t rank highly in most of the time Clady was at left tackle, their yards per carry were higher going left in those seven season (with the exception of 2014) than the Jets last season:
With the addition of Forte, there will be plenty of outside runs. Ivory was more of a power runner, and Forte is more of an all-around back. Football Outsiders show us that the Jets had more runs to the right side than the left in 2015:
Overall, the left tackle has the most responsibility on the line, and thus, is the most important player on the most important unit on the team. Clady will have to be at his best for the Jets to succeed in 2016.