Once again, the New York Jets fall short at the offensive line while other teams like the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys get it done.
Close, yet again … perhaps. Honestly, we don’t know whether the New York Jets were intent on massively upgrading the offensive line during the offseason.
USC’s Chuma Edoga was snagged in the third round, a step in the right direction that finally put an end to Mike Maccagnan’s wicked non-OL draft streak; but leaving the interior in such a vulnerable state with a franchise kid in tow feels unforgivable.
At some point, committing to premium offensive line talent is necessary. Right?
Admittedly, the Sam Darnold deal placed Mike Maccagnan behind the eight-ball. Without a second-round selection, fewer assets were on the table. (It’s the reason trading down served as such a critical strategy.) The important takeaway of the day can’t be lost; it’s still no excuse to ignore the most important five-man unit in football.
Most of the winning organizations understand. Two such franchises, the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys, demonstrated such a keen understanding during the league’s most recent draft.
Track the Saints recent history. Three straight 7-9 seasons and suddenly boom, an 11-5 explosion in 2017 and a 13-3 masterpiece a year ago. What happened? Drew Brees‘s employment stretches back to 2006.
The selection of Ryan Ramczyk in 2017 wrapped it all together.
Discuss Alvin Kamara all you’d like, but it was first-round Ramczyk who completed an already excellent offensive line. The Wisconsin product joined a first-round talent in Andrus Peat, a second-round selection in Max Unger, and two third rounders in Terron Armstead and Larry Warford.
In 2017, the Saints newly-formed O-line finished second in adjusted line yards (4.93), via Football Outsiders. Only the New England Patriots topped the mark. A year later, the Saints again finished second in the same category. The Los Angeles Rams (another good team, obviously), finished first.
Year after year, the unit tops the league and season upon season, they aren’t satisfied with the group, which represents the key. Super Bowl champ Max Unger was acquired in 2015, the very same man who retired this offseason. Instead of resting on their laurels, they immediately strike.
Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy was there for the taking in the second round. Not only did the Saints snag him, but they traded up to get their guy (to add on to one of the league’s best units). Like Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum who immediately flipped three O-line starters in 2006, the Saints wasted no time. They targeted their guy and made sure it happened.
Similarly, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line that needs no introduction and that has been carrying a less-than-stellar offensive talent base for years, reacts in the same fashion at the unit.
Dallas didn’t lose a sole from its offensive line this past offseason. That didn’t stop them from scooping up Penn State’s Connor McGovern in the third round. In fact, they beat the Jets to the interior hog despite having no place to start him, via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.
“According to a source, they (Jets) were considering drafting Penn State guard/center Connor McGovern in the third round of the draft on Friday night (93rd overall), but the Dallas Cowboys took him with the 90th pick instead.”
For good measure, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that finished first in rushing a couple of years ago, added Jawaan Taylor in the early second just two years after snagging first-round tackle Cam Robinson.
The best franchises pile the offensive line talent on despite its already solid nature. The Jets, on the other hand, are stuck on three offensive line selections in 34 total picks over the last five seasons, with two fifths and a third rounder accounting for those picks.
Of course, thanks to the non-interior draft experience, Jonotthan Harrison seems to be New York’s man of choice in the middle. The lone difference for a unit that finished dead last in adjusted line yards a season ago (3.59) is Kelechi Osemele, a 30-year-old looking to right the ship.
Whether or not Mike Maccagnan believes it’s enough to turn around such struggles isn’t really the issue. The fact that more hasn’t been done … is. While the Darnold deal would be pulled every day of the week, why not look ahead and grab an offensive lineman in the third round in 2018 instead of the suddenly-buried Nathan Shepherd? Why not invest in 2017 after the excellent Jamal Adams selection instead of a second safety?
After all the discussion surrounding such a critical spot for the future of the franchise (young Sam Darnold), Osemele and Edoga represent the only changes.
Who knows if the New York Jets think that’ll be enough come 2019. What we know for certain is the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys surely wouldn’t think the efforts qualify as substantial enough.