The New York Jets should take a page out of their history and go back to being known as a ground and pound offense.
Probably the least talked about position in football is anyone that exists on the offensive line. We live in an era where talking heads, fans, and armchair general managers thrive on quantifying a player’s worth with statistics that directly affect the outcome of a game. Despite all of this, the New York Jets must work to build the interior of their team, and that starts with the offensive line.
Of the four teams remaining in the NFL Playoffs, all have offensive lines that rank within the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’ ranking system. The Jets’ unit ranked 21st. Considering that PFF’s system takes into account the quality of the quarterback that the line is protecting, this is pretty abysmal. While the talk surrounds if or when the Jets will find a quarterback worthy of the starting position, they must make sure whoever that is, that they are protected.
Remember the 2009/2010 Jets? I’m sure you do. They constantly talked about “Ground and Pound”. It wasn’t flashy, but it’s quite possible this team was ahead of its time. The Jets’ offensive lines in those two years, which were two of the greatest in franchise history, ranked number one in both of those seasons. They are the reason ground and pound was successful since they ran the football with purpose and determination.
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Now, the offensive line isn’t the only component of a successful ground and pound team. The antithesis of this offensive philosophy lies in the hands of quarterbacks who release the ball quickly. There’s a reason why the 2010 offensive model won’t be successful today. You have to throw the football sometimes. When you do throw it, you better be sure that you have a quarterback who can deliver a pass accurately, and be able to quickly read through progressions.
From 2012-2015, a number of QBs who released the ball in less than 2.5 seconds on average nearly tripled. This means that quarterbacks are becoming more advanced when it comes to decision-making skills. So, with those two factors considered, ground and pound can be revived, with a few revisions.
In 2015, Tom Brady‘s average release time was 2.26 seconds. Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s was 2.31. 2015 was literally a miracle season for Fitzpatrick. He got rid of the ball quickly and accurately. 2016? Not so much.
Speaking of quick release times, the Patriots might know a thing or two about scouting quarterbacks. Here’s what Syracuse coach (and former Eastern Illinois coach) had to say about Jimmy Garropolo according to the Boston Herald’s Adam Kurkjian:
“Jimmy Garoppolo is the William Tell to me of college football. I’ve never seen a quarterback who could hit exactly what he was throwing at. And I’m not talking about putting it on a guy’s body. You put your hand out there, and he’s sticking it right in the middle of the guy’s palm. And you take that accuracy and put it with the second-fastest release of any guy I’ve ever seen – the only guy I’ve seen faster was Dan Marino‘s – second fastest release I’ve ever seen, and you’ve got an outstanding quarterback.”
So, when projecting which quarterbacks the Jets should be targeting, look for the combination of delivery speed and accuracy. In spread offenses, this could be a tough find, so look carefully. If the Jets are unable to find a quarterback who can release the ball at an elite level, then they must focus on the offensive line.
In the offseason, we will look more into the draft-eligible quarterbacks. However, given the current quarterback class, the most efficient way for the Jets to fix their offensive woes is by building the interior in the mold of ground and pound and properly scouting a quarterback who can bring this model into today’s era.