Despite a late switch on the starting offensive line, the New York Jets are still asking questions that are becoming all too familiar.
Meet the new line … same as the old line.
Sunday afternoon saw several new names take their first starring role on the New York Jets. Unfortunately for the Jets, the new blockers displayed the same issues as their predecessors. Their struggles took center stage in the Jets’ latest loss, a 31-6 shellacking at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Eager to change their fortunes on a woebegone 2019, the Jets made adjustments to their front five headed into the Philadelphia visit. Veteran Kelechi Osemele (shoulder) was sidelined with an injury, and Brandon Shell was benched.
In their respective places went Alex Lewis at left guard and Chuma Edoga at right tackle. Each made their first New York starts alongside regulars Brian Winters, Ryan Kalil, and Kelvin Beachum.
Change came, but only for the worse. Quarterback Luke Falk was sacked nine times (backup David Fales was also victimized once) and rushers were unable to establish a rhythm. The Jets went on to earn less than 200 yards for the second consecutive week as Philadelphia rolled despite a respectable output from the New York defenders.
More questions, perhaps different from prior weeks only in wording, were thus created from another brutal effort.
“We were trying to mix it up and put five guys out there that would work well together,” head coach Adam Gase said of the switch, per Howie Kussoy of the New York Post. Gase later remarked, “We were taking our turns, and it just avalanches when you let a defensive line like that start feeling like they can get through.”
The Jets’ biggest victory, perhaps, was the fact that franchise quarterback Sam Darnold wasn’t around for the carnage.
“You have to be able to protect the quarterback in this league, and that’s just the bottom line,” center Ryan Kalil said, per Kussoy. “For us, it’s about going to work and fixing the things we have to fix. A lot of it is technique, and that’s what we have to do.”
Darnold, Falk, Fales, and Trevor Siemian have been sacked a combined 23 times this season. Noted newcomer Le’Veon Bell has done what he could, to the tune of 372 total yards, but the applauded rusher is averaging only 2.9 yards-per-carry.
In a way, the line’s struggles is perhaps the final insult of the Mike Maccaggnan era. While the departed general manager’s final offseason began with the acquisition of former Pro Bowler Osemele, the Jets hesitated to bolster the unit, even with a prized commodity under center.
The Edoga pick came in the late stages of the draft’s second day was labeled a character risk by several scouts. Back luck in prior drafts certainly didn’t help Maccagnan’s case. His first draft in 2015 saw two-time Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff chosen by Washington in the slot just above the Jets (polarizing defensive lineman Leonard Williams was their eventually choice at No. 6).
Upon Maccagnan’s ousting, incoming decisionmaker Joe Douglas made his mark by convincing the former All-Pro center Kalil out of retirement and obtaining Lewis in a trade with Baltimore. Neither has lived up to the potential in this fading season, but at least Douglas made his intentions clear with the bold moves. His first campaign at the helm has made it clear there’s work to do.
While a few overly optimistic analysts foresaw a playoff visit, many generally agreed that Douglas needed to complete his purge of Maccagnan personnel before they could truly make noise on the national level. Now, Douglas has a new project to put at the top of his list to lead the Jets back to glory.
The Jets are nearing a breaking point where they may be no longer to ask what can change. That question could soon become who can change as the season drifts further into oblivion. There’s no shame in losing to established powers from New England and Philadelphia, but the sheer effort, or lack thereof, and inability to adapt has been particularly problematic.
A plethora of blocking talent potentially looms on the horizon. Scherff and Anthony Castonzo are among the 2020 free-agent class. Trent Williams has made it clear he’s had it with the circus in Landover.
Douglas has made it clear he’s willing to put anyone, and any draft pick, on the table if it means making a winning mark on the franchise. If this keeps up, the time to fulfill that promise sooner rather than later.