Jets Must Build O-Line; Franchise QB Will Eventually Come (Film Room) 3
TAMPA, FL - NOV 12: Josh McCown (15) of the Jets is sacked by Gerald McCoy (93) of the Bucs during the regular season game between the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 12, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It always starts up front in the game of football. The New York Jets would be wise to receive that memo and appropriately build the O-line.

He comes as a surprise. He comes as a bargain. He comes as a top-billed superstar with all the trimmings and moneybags fit for a king. He even comes as a guy who couldn’t beat out Drew Henson at Michigan or as a grocery store manager frustrated with the game while battling in the arena league.

Forget about how he comes. Eventually, he gets there — even for the New York Jets.

For a franchise that hasn’t employed a true franchise quarterback since Joe Namath (minus a few diehard Ken O’Brien fans aside), struggling to find that face-of-the-program type guy has been fleeting. Mark Sanchez didn’t work. Chad Pennington, as great as he was at times, just fell short of the gold standard. Vinny Testaverde did his best with a legendary coach towards the end of his career.

It’s been tough. It’s why Jets fans are absolutely nutty concerning the position. I just wish I could rally the entire fan base and tell ’em to all take a deep breath. Building the offensive line is much more important right now.

Look at Dallas. Look at Dak Prescott. Although the Cowboys possessed two studs along the O-line, drafting Zack Martin put it all together. From that point forward, they’ve allowed an average-to-good QB in Prescott to look much better. They’ve beaten teams with suspect defenses and a beastly running game.

It all starts up front and with a big nasty unit up front, the Jets can bide their time in finding the right guy who touches the center’s ass on Sundays. None of these QBs are guarantees. When drafting O-linemen, it’s usually as safe as it gets. Rarely do top draft O-linemen bust.

Nonetheless, it’s true. The quarterback position is by far the most precious in all of sports. It always ranked up there since the league started nearly a century ago, but it’s now out of control thanks to the offensive-friendly rue changes witnessed over the past two decades.

When a name like Sam Darnold and a draft class as loaded as this comes at the identical time the media pegs a complete Jets tank, queue the madness. Then the Jets start winning a few games, ruining their chances of a Darnold. Queue the madness even further.

When Deshaun Watson goes nuts to start a fresh NFL career, queue the ridiculousness.

The only thing more maddening is the play of Mike Maccagnan’s offensive line.

In the team’s disheartening 15-10 loss to the Bucs in Tampa this past Sunday, the unit Mikey Mac’s ignored far too often handed in a performance for the ages — a disgusting performance for the ages.

The Bucs entered the game ranked dead last in the NFL with eight sacks. They picked up six sacks against New York. Josh McCown literally had no chance. In fact, when the film is looked at a second or third time, a sense of amazement washes over the onlooker in terms of how McCown could actually throw 14 touchdowns to just eight interceptions on 69 percent completion percentage from the field.

Brian Winters, the Jets supposed second-best lineman, was literally dominated by Gerald McCoy on two of three plays late in the game when the Jets needed points down 15-3:

McCoy simply overpowered Winters on the first sack. The second sack was more unforgivable as center Wesley Johnson is the fifth man in the middle. Therefore, Winters has help to his left yet allows McCoy to beat him to his right.

In giving up 32 sacks on the season, the Jets rank 30th in the NFL in sacks allowed. One of the more egregious issues they suffer through is a blatant lack of communication.

At least a couple times every game, a free-runner is let loose on McCown. It happened two or three times against the Bucs:

Another free-runner comes at McCown even though a designed screen is on — a TE screen, more specifically:

And even when Tomlinson is inserted at tight end and they go max protect — which they do as frequently as any team in the league — six Jets cannot block the standard four-man rush:

Either Eric Tomlinson needs to chip harder before releasing or McCown needs to react quicker. Either way, this is a disaster of a play.

Then there’s the run game.

Heading into the Buffalo game, the Jets rushing attack was below-average, ranking somewhere in the early 20’s of the league. When taking out the two monster runs against Jacksonville (Bilal Powell 75-yarder that saw him fall down untouched and Elijah McGuire‘s 69-yard scamper), the Jets yards per carry dwindled to just 3.0, putting them at second to last.

Against Buffalo, they racked up 194 yards. But it was misleading. Hosting the Bills at home on Thursday Night Football, it was obvious that Buffalo’s front-seven and rushing defense was awful as opposed to the Jets dictating terms upfront. That Thursday night road team bug bit the Bills.

In Tampa, they went for 56 yards on 19 carries, mirroring too many of the Jets rushing games this season:

  • Week 1 @ Buffalo: 38 yards on 15 carries
  • Week 2 @ Oakland: 126 yards on 25 carries
  • Week 3 vs. Dolphins: 103 yards on 34 carries
  • Week 4 vs. Jaguars: 256 yards on 32 carries (144 yards on two carries)
  • Week 5 @ Cleveland: 34 yards on 18 carries
  • Week 6 vs. Patriots: 74 yards on 24 carries
  • Week 7 @ Miami: 92 yards on 22 carries
  • Week 8 vs. Falcons: 43 yards on 22 carries
  • Week 9 vs. Bills: 194 yards on 41 carries
  • Week 10 @ Tampa: 56 yards on 19 carries

Remember when Matt Forte got on the coaching staff for giving up on the run too easily? He couldn’t be more off. They’ve only rushed fewer than 19 times once on the season and yet continue to pound the run even when it’s not working — which is, well, most of the time.

The Jacksonville and Buffalo games severely skew the numbers.

The squad’s rushed for 101.6 yards per game on the season, ranking them 20th in the league. Their 4.0 yards per carry puts them 19th yet their 25.2 attempts per game place them 15th. They’ve rushed more than they should based on the production and it makes sense as Todd Bowles considers himself a defensive mind who wants to see a controlling ground-and-pound rushing attack.

This forces the offense to look extremely conservative at times even when you see glimpses of John Morton wanting to attack downfield:

They’re just not good enough to run in obvious run situations. They cannot oppose their will.

You can dream about Darnold or Josh Rosen or Mason Rudolph or Josh Allen or even Big Ten star Baker Mayfield. That’s cool. Go for it.

It honestly won’t matter if Maccagnan continues down this route of ignoring offensive line talent. It’d go in the Andrew Luck direction of allowing the franchise to be destroyed.

Even with a big-time talent drafted in the top 10 at the position, having that offensive line protects against so many worries. He can learn on the job and not be killed. He can take his time while navigating through the NFL.

What’s best is even if the franchise guy isn’t in the house, a beastly O-line allows the franchise more time to finally snag that guy.

Attention Mikey Mac: don’t be as stubborn as Jerry Reese. Use premium picks for that offensive line moving forward. And yeah, that franchise QB will eventually come, even for the New York Jets. Before Tom Brady, the Pats had nothing (unless you’d like to count Drew Bledsoe and Steve Grogan). Before Peyton Manning, the Colts couldn’t catch a break since Johnny Unitas (as I know you’re not bringing up Jeff George).

It will happen, but building the O-line is even more important at this very moment.

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]