Last week, the offensive line of the New York Jets vs. the Detroit Lions was horrific, setting off major alarms: Can they even protect their signal callers?
The Week 2 preseason matchup between the New York Jets and Detroit Lions began with a huge hit and sack on quarterback Christian Hackenberg who was partially at fault for not making a line slide adjustment. However, running back Bilal Powell ran right by the defensive end and failed to throw a shoulder into him.
Offensive tackle Brandon Shell also cracked down on the defensive tackle instead of blocking the defender right in front of him. Inexperience can be dangerous, so the offensive linemen must improve communication to avoid vicious hits like this. Veterans like Nick Mangold were crucial in these types of situations.
This had to be frustrating for offensive coordinator John Morton. The first offensive series had multiple assignment failures and began a trend of consecutive three and out drives. There is no way a young quarterback can progress by running for his life or playing on his back. The offensive line must play more aggressive and execute their protection schemes in order to keep the quarterback upright and healthy.
Even though the first half was poor, some positives include:
- Hackenberg is as tough as nails and can bounce back from major hits
- Powell looks to be in good shape even with missing time in training camp
- Wide receiver Robby Anderson continues to beat cornerbacks on vertical routes and looks ready for the No. 1 role
- 2nd half adjustments gave quarterback Bryce Petty the opportunity to distribute the football effectively
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Hackenberg ended the night with unimpressive numbers but the way he handled the pressure showed he is not easily flustered.
Many young quarterbacks have trouble getting into a rhythm and tend to speed up their mental reads because of pressure.
Hack stood tall in the pocket and his solid footwork helped him gain 12 yards on a scramble in the 2nd quarter. While his offensive line continued to struggle, he did his best to get the ball out quickly. A couple focus drops and penalties stalled the first string team from moving the chains or putting points on the board.
Bryce Petty took over the 2nd half and the protection was much improved. Only one sack was given up but the Jets got the ground game going and that opened up some passing lanes. The second string unit put together three kicking opportunities which lead to six points. Much depends on the offensive line giving players a chance to make a play.
The Jets may want to consider utilizing the fullback or tight end as an extra blocker until the offensive line begins to gel. Offensive guard Brian Winters is having a really poor preseason and needs to get back to his 2016 form as soon as possible. So far, here have been his main issues:
- Week 1: On the Jets opening drive inside the red zone he missed his block and Elijah McGuire was tackled for a loss. Luckily for Winters, quarterback Josh McCown hooked up with Charone Peake for an easy score so the mistake was quickly overlooked.
- Week 2: Winters struggled to handle Akeem Spence and Cornelius Washington–both had sacks.
- On a critical 3rd down attempt, Winters was penalized for holding on a designed screen play for Powell. To add to his problems, he missed his lead block which lead to a loss on the play. Detroit declined the penalty and forced the punt.
Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum has been the quiet lineman who has gone unnoticed. Maybe it means he is doing his job. If Beachum gels with offensive guard James Carpenter, the blind side could be the strong point of the unit.
The competition at right tackle between Ben Ijalana, Shell, and Brent Qvale could end up similar to last year–a rotational blocking scheme with more jumbo-set formations. As long as the Jets can run the ball effectively to open up passing opportunities and minimize turnovers, they should be able to compete.
Hopefully, the offensive line will limit mistakes and make progress in the upcoming Week 3 preseason game vs. the New York Giants.
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