The experience of the New York Jets offensive line will be a key to overcoming the fact that they’ve had no game time together.
When building an offensive line, two key factors are talent and chemistry. Talent is obviously key, as every unit requires players who can block. But chemistry is also critical.
You want your offensive lineman to know what the other four men on the line are thinking and what their tendencies are. This helps guard against stunts and other defensive techniques designed to confuse the offense. The New York Jets interior offensive line currently lacks that.
Center Ryan Kalil, and guards Kelechi Osmele and Brian Winters, have yet to appear in a preseason game together, and likely won’t play together before the games count. Kalil has been working himself into shape and did not appear in either of the first two preseason games.
Meanwhile, Osmele and Winters are both expected to be held out on Saturday with injuries. Considering that starters rarely play in the final preseason game, it appears that the combination that plays closed to Sam Darnold will not play together before the games count.
Is this ideal? Of course not. Adam Gase would ideally want these three out there together before the games start to count, given that they are responsible for Darnold’s safety. However, it isn’t a fatal blow for the Jets, as there are reasons for optimism that they can limit the effects of this lack of chemistry.
For one, the unit will practice together. Practicing together isn’t the same as playing together, but there will be some baseline for the three of them to work together to keep the middle of the pocket clear.
This is where Gregg Williams helps the offense, as he is one of the most aggressive defensive coordinators in the game. He loves to blitz and his love for sending insane pressure results in the offensive line receiving plenty of experience in picking up blitz reads during practice.
The fact that the defense is stronger up the middle than on the edges is also going to lead to these three seeing more blitzes, as it’s likely that Williams will choose to tailor his defense towards getting pressure up the middle. As they say, you need to play with the hand you’re dealt, and Williams has a hand that is going to win or lose up the middle.
The second factor that plays into this group’s favor is their experience. Winters has played six seasons with the Jets, Kalil played 12 with the Carolina Panthers and Osmele played seven seasons in the NFL prior to coming to New York.
The trio showcases a combined 321 games (308 starts) in the NFL, as well as 15 additional playoff games (all starts). There are a combined two Super Bowl appearances, seven Pro Bowls and four All-Pro (three first-team) between Kalil and Omegle. Osemele is a Super Bowl champion.
These three have been around. Nobody can last that long in the NFL without playing with multiple different line combinations. Nobody plays that long without seeing multiple defensive looks thrown at you. And chances are that nobody sticks around if anything you see overwhelms you.
They can use their memory banks of experience to recognize what the defense is throwing at them, and they’ve been around to anticipate what any offensive lineman next to them will do to react.
It might not be seamless early on, they’ll have to react a little more than anticipated. But it won’t be an issue long-term, and it won’t slow the line down the way it would a less experienced group.