Even With 6 OL, the New York Jets Can't Block the Opposition (Film Room)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: The New York Jets huddle during the first half against the Buffalo Bills on September 10, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Even with six offensive linemen in the game, the New York Jets fail miserably when trying to block the opponent as seen in Buffalo.

From the dawn of American football, it’s been preached to this very day …

Offensive football begins in the trenches.

Today’s league caters to the offense and especially the quarterback, so finding the right face of the franchise is, of course, necessary. Adding weaponry out wide and in the backfield is also a tempting notion (as shiny toys for the offense are always scream aloud at the personnel decision-maker), but in the end, it always starts with those five big heavies up front.

The offensive line is literally (almost) half of the entire offense (5-of-11 individuals). If you can’t block ’em, you can neither run it nor pass it. It’s only common sense.

For some strange and infuriating reason, Mike Maccagnan has failed to address his O-line and the New York Jets are severely paying the consequences.

Upon his arrival, Mikey Mac implemented an “aggressive rebuild.” He acquired the likes of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Brandon Marshall and even re-signed David Harris. But the area is best signing came to play is when the left guard was addressed. His snagging of Super Bowl champ James Carpenter from Seattle has done wonders.

But other than Carpenter, anything Mac has touched on the offensive line has either failed or come up short.

This past Sunday in the Jets 21-12 loss, the all-important O-line yet again struggled. They couldn’t even block a Buffalo Bills defense with six of the big nasties in the game at the same time.

It as obvious as anything you’d ever witness on a football field. Yes is the answer to Matt Forte losing a major step at this age, but Bilal Powell is still a good National Football League back. His explosiveness is still present and hits the appropriate holes when necessary.

In the passing game, the O-line wasn’t terrible. In fact, it held up for the most part. John Morton put an emphasis on keeping extra blockers in to help out his five — which, at times, didn’t seem necessary — but the pass protection for Josh McCown wasn’t all that bad.

The run game is where the Jets simply couldn’t move the opposition and the obvious numbers of 15 carries for 38 yards (2.5 yards per rush) can’t even begin to tell half the story.

The very first offensive play of the game resulted in a three yard Robby Anderson gain after McCown hit him on a quick out. Naturally, on 2nd-and-7, the Jets ran the ball.

The first thing to look for here are the positions of the two safeties. On this down, the Jets offensive front was put in a bad blocking situation as the Bills were clearly playing the run with eight men in the box and a Cover 3 look (single-high safety).

With a one tight end, six offensive linemen, one back set, the Jets ran a power play with Matt Forte to the right:

With a stud quarterback, this play is a pass every time. Look at the corners. They’re in press with only one safety deep. It’s a glorious opportunity to pass the ball yet the Jets stuck with the run in a low run percentage situation even with six offensive linemen in the game.

Right guard Brian Winters pulled to the right as everybody else took man assignments. It resulted in a one yard gain, setting up a tough third down.

This was the biggest problem for the Jets offense all day long. We know they’re going to run a conservative game plan, but when the offense isn’t gaining three or four yards on the ground, bad later downs come.

The Jets ran for two yards are fewer an incredible eight times in the game. Six of those times went for one yard or fewer.

The difference between a one yard and four yard gain is huge.

Later in the game on the Jets fourth drive, they ran a quick A-gap hit with Bilal Powell on 1st-and-10:

Again, it’s not an ideal rushing situation as the Bills placed eight in the box (like they did most of the game). In fact, this was the story of the game in terms of Jets offense. Even with the Bills playing so aggressively and daring the Jets to go over-the-top, Morton and Todd Bowles were unrelenting in their conservative non-attack. With a great offense and QB, deep chunks of shots would be attempted against this defensive look.

Nevertheless, on first down here, the Jets came out with a three WR look (11 personnel) against Buffalo’s nickel.

Initially, everything happened as it was supposed to. Wesley Johnson took out the nose tackle and Winters got to the second level. Carpenter also got to the second level extremely quickly. Where the play broke down was the right end sliding down and converging. Kelvin Beachum couldn’t get over and seal him off. Perhaps Carpenter should have chipped more prior to moving onto the second level. In any event, the play failed miserably and only two yards were gained when this one could’ve gone for a good one.

To start the second half, another dandy of a nonblocking play happened.

Coming out in 11 personnel, the Jets ran a simple A-gap zone or dive of some sort with Powell:

On the surface, it looks as though the Bills were going with a seven-man box with two safeties deep. That wasn’t the case. The strong safety shot up (like he did all game) and they settled into a Cover 1 man.

Powell went for no gain. The huge culprit on this one was newly acquired tight end Will Tye who was manhandled by the left end. It forced the right A-gap plan to be bounced to the left side and everything broke down.

On the next drive and on another 1st-and-10, New York attempted another run out of a three wide receiver set. Yet again, the safety shot down to throw another body in the box. Forte could only muster no gain.

However, instead of watching Tye whiff on another block, the Jets came at the Bills with another six offensive linemen look. The counter play out of the shotgun saw Forte take it to the right with Winters as the pulling guard. Yet again, it was another disaster of a run play with six O-linemen.

Rookie ArDarius Stewart cracked down and Winters couldn’t find a soul to touch.

The following is an example of what good offensive line play looks like. The Dallas Cowboys offensive line is not only one of the best in decades, but makes Dak Prescott look like a terrific QB. Against the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football, they led the way for Ezekiel Elliott.

On this play, Dallas ran its signature zone stretch:

Each lineman takes a zone and engages their man in that zone. What’s most important to look at is how long they stay on their blocks. This is the signature attribute for an NFL offensive lineman.

How long can they engage?

On this Elliott stretch that resulted in six nice yards, he had many lanes to choose from. The Jets offensive line, on the other hand, always starts off the play on the right foot yet can never finish the play.

They cannot stay on their blocks and hold them long enough. They can’t block the opposition.

What We Now Realize More Than Ever:

  • Defenses will continue to show eight in the box and dare McCown and the offense to go downfield. Nobody can ever get on the Jets offense for giving up on the run if it’s not producing. In football, offenses must take what the defense gives them and in order for the Jets to rush the ball effectively, the passing game must loosen it up first.
  • Will Tye is a terrible blocker. It’s that simple.
  • The O-line is a much better pass protecting unit than it is in the run game. They simply cannot move the opposition and dictate terms of the field.

The Jets showcased a six OL look about 10 times during the game. In today’s NFL, this is an unusually high number. It’s an unusual look on casual downs (non-goal line).

Due to the look, the defense takes liberties and plays run. Trust in McCown and the young weapons must happen now if this offense has any shot of doing anything this season.

But in football, you can’t pass or run it if you don’t block it first. That’ll be the theme of this offense all season long.

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]jetsxfactor.com