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Offensive line overhaul is inevitable for the Jets

By Ryan Patti
TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets drops back for a pass while getting protection by offensive tackle Brandon Shell #72 from pressure from middle defensive end Darryl Tapp #56 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter of an NFL football game on November 12, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets drops back for a pass while getting protection by offensive tackle Brandon Shell #72 from pressure from middle defensive end Darryl Tapp #56 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter of an NFL football game on November 12, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /
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The New York Jets have been better offensively than many expected. Their one glaring issue on that side of the ball remains the line.

It all starts up front in an NFL offense. If you look at the current playoff contenders other than Seattle, each of them gets consistent production from their offensive line. Philadelphia, New England, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Dallas highlight the teams with the best units. Why are the New York Jets not in the postseason discussion? Take a guess.

John Morton’s line hasn’t adjusted to his West Coast offense as smoothly as he would’ve liked. They’ve allowed a whopping 32 sacks, which ranks tied for 30th in the league with San Francisco. Indianapolis is dead last with 39.

The late bye is definitely a reason behind the large number, but you can’t hide the ineptitude. More than three sacks per week are abysmal at the professional level. To provide a deeper look at how poor the group has been, let’s look at the individual grades Pro Football Focus put together through the first 10 games.

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Starting guard James Carpenter crumbled in Seattle’s West Coast scheme from 2011-14 and those same struggles have resurfaced under Morton. He owns a 38.8 overall grade on PFF with a 37.6 in pass blocking. His combined overall grade in Chan Gailey’s spread system was an 80.1.

His partner in crime Brian Winters has seen similar regression. The Kent State product has an overall grade of 41.9 and a 45.7 in pass blocking. He earned a combined overall grade of 62.95 under Gailey.

Right tackles Brent Qvale and Brandon Shell aren’t keeping the pocket intact either. Shell has a 51.1 overall grade and a 66.8 in pass blocking while Qvale owns a 46.7 overall and 45.7 in pass blocking. Center Wesley Johnson is the worst of the bunch with an overall of 35.7 and 34.6 in pass blocking.

The two who have impressed grade-wise are starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum and backup guard Dakota Dozier. Beachum holds a 71.9 overall and a 76.4 in pass blocking. Dozier has a 69.7 and 49.1, respectively.

The run blocking is somehow even worse. The Jets’ ground game is statistically relevant solely because of two Week 4 long runs from Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire. The backfield has a grand total of 1,016 yards on 252 attempts, which rounds out to exactly four yards per clip. If you take away those home run plays from Powell and McGuire, New York all of a sudden averages 3.49 yards/carry.

You can point the finger at the offensive line here. Dozier is the lone run-blocking standout given his 75.5 grade. Ben Ijalana has a 70.8, although he has played a mere 15 snaps. The next highest is Qvale at 48.6, so I’ll spare you the rest of the grades in that department.

General manager Mike Maccagnan will begin reworking this group in March. The only pieces guaranteed to return are Beachum and Winters, who both signed multi-year deals this past spring. Cutting Carpenter would save Gang Green $4.7 million in 2018, per Over The Cap. Maccagnan may have him pegged as one of the bigger cap casualty candidates on the roster.

Ijalana is in that same boat as releasing him would save $4.75 million towards 2018. Qvale, Dozier, Johnson and Jonotthan Harrison are unrestricted free agents. Shell is under contract until 2020, but they could part ways with him as well. That move would save approximately $571,000.

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Maccagnan has plenty of options in free agency and the 2018 NFL Draft to address this need. He just has to make sure he finds “Morton guys.” This will be one of his tougher tasks in what projects to be his busiest offseason yet.

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