After an offseason of hearing prognosticators and fans alike insist that the Jets offensive line was bound to be one of the worst groups in the NFL, the unit performed at a level few would have predicted in their season opener against the Lions in Detroit. It’s only one game, and the Lions were without Ziggy Ansah for much of the night, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Jets offensive line wasn’t just good, but they were downright dominant at times.
It was the polar opposite of last season when much of the Jets undoing came as a result of poor blocking up the middle from left guard James Carpenter, center Wesley Johnson and right guard Brian Winters. This time around, Carpenter continued to play well, as has been the case throughout training camp and the preseason, while Long and Winters were fantastic.
For your top running backs to chalk up over 160 yards on 22 carries, you’ve got to be doing something right. Add to that the fact that Sam Darnold was sacked just twice and pressured a total of three times, and you’ve got a heck of a group effort.
According to Pro Football Focus, the aforementioned Winters and Long produced some impressive results, picking up grades of 85 and 83 respectively in pass protection. In 13 games last season, Winters’ pass blocking graded out above 80 just twice, so it looks as if he’s all the way back from the abdominal injury that hampered him in 2017. The two were also keys in the run game as they were critical in springing Isaiah Crowell on his 62-yard touchdown run.
Brian Winters and Spencer Long double-team Ricky Jean Francois before Long breaks off to pick up LBer Jarrad Davis, springing Crowell on this 62-yd TD run. pic.twitter.com/fznNqyoM7b
— Glenn Naughton (@AceFan23) September 13, 2018
Brandon Shell and Carpenter also had solid performances with grades of 74.8 and 69.8 respectively, with Kelvin Beachum bringing up the rear as a pass blocker at 62.4.
The Jets weren’t exactly facing a juggernaut offensive line, and things will only get tougher over the next three weeks, but the early signs point to the Jets being a better bunch that the doubters predicted, and if they continue to play anywhere close to how they did on Monday, Jets fans can breathe a sigh of relief as keeping Sam Darnold upright is one of the keys to the season as the team hopes to grow the rookie signal caller.