Quick, name the top five third-string left tackles in the NFL. You can’t, and that’s no big surprise.
One of the biggest takeaways from last nights Jets loss to the co-tenant Giants was the need for the team to address the left tackle position where they’re currently down to their third option in Brent Qvale who was consistently steamrolled against the Giants.
Fans can get as angry at Qvale as they like for his poor play, but the fact of the matter is that with starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum sidelined with a foot injury and Ben Ijalana on injured reserve for the season, the Jets are forced to play their back-up right tackle at left tackle. The results have been predictable.
The fact that offseason addition Antonio Garcia has been a disaster at the position means that GM Mike Maccagnan has to go out and find some insurance. The biggest problem with that is that if you’re an NFL left tackle who can play even a little bit, you’re probably on a roster already, or you’re a player that a team ins’t looking to part ways with.
The best option to add as a backup right now could be former Giants and Eagles offensive tackle Will Beatty who has 63 career starts at the position and spent last season in Philadelphia but remains unsigned.
Whoever it is, the bottom line is that it can’t be Qvale. Todd Bowles needs to be able to move him back over to the right side where he can back up Brandon Shell, while a new body is brought in to take Ben Ijalana’s spot on the roster so that Jets fans (and Sam Darnold) can sleep better at night if Beachum were to miss any regular season action.
With news of Jets guard Brian Winters likely to miss the remainder of the pre-season as he makes his return from an injury-plagued 2017, the question has to be asked. Why was Todd Bowles continuing to trot the right guard out on to the field last season after he’d torn an abdominal muscle in week two despite his team’s season being over, and adequate backups on the bench?
Of course if Winters being put on the shelf for another reason, then it’s not about Bowles poor handling of the situation. However, the implication from Ian Rapoport in his tweet was that this is the Jets bringing Winters along slowly as he is “recovering from an injury”.
The #Jets are taking it slow with G Brian Winters as he is recovering from an injury and he’s not expected to play this week — or likely any game in the preseason, I’m told. The belief is Winters, who battled through a painful abdomen injury in ‘17, will be ready for the opener.
It wasn’t until well after the 2017 season came to a close that we learned Winters had played with the injury for 11 weeks after initially sustaining it in week 2 against the Oakland Raiders.
While playing with pain that Winters claimed made it difficult for him to get out of bed, the Jets offense struggled on a weekly basis as Winters’ ineffectiveness became increasingly evident. With veteran backups Brent Qvale and Dakota Dozier watching from the sidelines, Winters wasn’t shut down and allowed to begin the healing process until the Jets fell to 4-9 in week thirteen.
If one were to make the case that Bowles wasn’t comfortable with Qvale and Dozier, the fact that both were retained after hitting free agency tells you that the Jets like the pair enough to keep them around and active, and with Winters playing as poorly as he was, neither player could have been any worse.
Fast forward to today, and it now appears the Jets will be forced to play a combination of Jonotthan Harrison and Ben Braden in Winters’ place for the duration of the preseason while the team is trying to work rookie Sam Darnold into the role of starting quarterback.
With starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum sidelined until the start of the season with a foot injury and his backup Ben Ijalana on injured reserve, things could start to get ugly along the Jets O-line without Winters as well.
Here’s to hoping Bowles is less stubborn moving forward, and will be willing to sit an injured and under-performing veteran to allow him to recover adequately, rather than have an injury drag on over multiple seasons.
Ijalana, a 6’4”, 322-pounder in his eighth season out of Villanova, was injured during a Jets-Redskins practice session in Richmond, VA. The veteran swing tackle has appeared in 34 career games and made 13 starts. He made all 13 starts for the Green & White in the 2016 campaign before returning to a depth role in 2017.
Gradkowski spent the last two seasons with the Panthers, but both were cut short because of injuries. Originally a fourth-round pick out of Delaware by the Ravens in 2012, Gradkowski spent three seasons in Baltimore before splitting time with the Broncos and Falcons in 2015. The 6’3”, 300-pounder is the younger brother of former NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
While the majority of Jets fans were thrilled to see Gang Green nab a potential franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold with the third overall pick in this year’s draft, there were those who were none too thrilled over the team’s failure to use any of their choices to stock the pipeline to the o-line.
With all of the concerns about the unit, we take a look at the offensive line from top to bottom and discuss whether or not the picture is as bleak as some say.
LT Kelvin Beachum: Beachum is a perfect example of the old saying, “you get what you pay for”. He’s a middle of the road left tackle who makes middle of the road left tackle money as the 18th highest paid player at his position in the NFL at $8 million. The Jets should look to make an upgrade at the position, but you can live with Beachum for another season or two.
LG James Carpenter: No player on the Jets offensive line is more important than Carpenter this season. Prior to last year, he was viewed as one of the best players on the Jets’ 53-man roster. He consistently won his battles up front and was a big part of the success the Jets had in the ground game. Last season however, was a different story. On a seemingly weekly basis, Carpenter was consistently beaten by the man across from him. If he fails to return to 2015/2016 form, opponents will attack him up the middle consistently. There are also valid concerns as to how Carpenter will play in what is expected to be a zone-heavy offense.
C Spencer Long: Let’s get this out of the way right away. Simply parting ways with Wesley Johnson this off-season made the Jets offensive line better. Johnson was arguably the single worst center in the NFL and was the biggest culprit for the pocket consistently collapsing. Even if Long plays at a league average level, which he should, this is an enormous upgrade. Long missed some time last season with a torn quadriceps but prior to that missed just four games over the previous two seasons.
RG Brian Winters: After cashing in with a big contract following the 2016 season, Jets fans were worried when Winters came out last season, and much like Carpenter got beaten regularly throughout the season. As it turns out, we would later learn that Winters played the majority of the season with a torn abdominal muscle that he suffered in week 2. This year is a big one for Winters as he’ll have to return to form or run the risk of being released after this season as the Jets wouldn’t incur any cap hit while saving $6.5 million according to overtheap.com.
RT Brandon Shell: Over the course of his first two pro seasons, Shell’s play has been inconsistent, but has shown flashes of brilliance. There’s no denying that Shell has the ability to be an above average player, but the key for him will be doing the things he does well every week. A better pass blocker than run blocker, Shell lacks the skill set to move to the left side, so this is where he’ll likely stay. As is the case with Beachum on the left, you could do a lot worse than Shell on the right side.
LT Ben Ijalana: After a few years as D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s understudy, Ijalana finally got some live reps over the past couple of seasons at both left and right tackle. He’s been better on the right side and can be a liability on the left, but how many teams have a back up left tackle who can come in and play at a high level when you consider the fact that there aren’t even 32 starters who can do it?
RT Brent Qvale: A former undrafted free agent, Qvale is the opposite of the aforementioned Brandon Shell. A better run blocker than pass blocker, Qvale is what he is. A back-up level lineman who can start a game for you from time to time, but as you look around the league at how putrid many offensive lines are, retaining Qvale made sense for the Jets this season.
RG Dakota Dozier: Dozier has been moved around quite a bit in his time with the Jets as he seemed to bounce from guard to center and back again over his first few seasons. At this point, he’s a high character, spot starter who has looked excellent in the run game at times.
C Jonotthan Harrison: Harrison came on in relief of Wesley Johnson last season and while he was an improvement, he didn’t play well enough to warrant consideration as a starter this season. He should be able to win the backup job over Travis Swanson.
C Travis Swanson: Swanson was a disaster in Detroit last season and was so bad that the Lions opted to let him walk before signing Wesley Johnson. Swanson may not even make the roster. If he does, and plays well, the Jets O-line staff will have worked a miracle.
Rookie to watch:
OG Dakoda Shepley: An undrafted lineman out of Canada, Shepley moves extremely well for a big man and plays with a mean streak. However, going from a small program in Canada to the NFL, Shepley will be lined up across from players with a much different skill set than he’s accustomed to. Even still, his progress is worth monitoring as he could fit nicely in the Jets zone scheme.
So are the concerns over the O-line among fans overblown? The weakest link (Johnson) is gone, and a previously injured Winters is set to return at full strength. As mentioned above, that leaves Carpenter as the biggest question mark, but the reality is that the Jets should be good enough up front to give their quarterbacks time to throw and their running backs room to run. While it won’t be at a dominant level, it will be far better than what plenty of fans seem to think.
The deadline for the New York Jets to exercise a $500,000 option on offensive lineman Ben Ijalana has passed and it appears the team has declined that option according to Brian Costello of the New York Post.
It looks like the Jets are not exercising the $500k option on OT Ben Ijalana. Today was the deadline. He will be a free agent. Jets clear $4.6 million in cap space. #nyj
Ijalana was inked to a two-year deal last off-season as insurance based on his experience at left and right tackle, but wasn’t used to fill in as a starter at any point during the season after starting 11 contests in 2016.
As Costello mentions, the move saves the Jets $4.6 million in cap space.
Coming off of what may have been the best performance Todd Bowles has gotten out of his team since taking over in a 20-6 win over the Miami Dolphins, the Jets host the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets may have a hard time dominating on defense the way they did against Jay Cutler and the Dolphins. Last week saw the Jaguars throttle the Baltimore Ravens 44-7 as quarterback Blake Bortles threw 4 touchdown passes in a game that he was forced to exit early.
Who: NY Jets (1-2) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)
When: Sunday at 1 pm
Where: Metlife Stadium
Point Spread: Jets +3
Here’s a look at which players and position groups will be key for the Jets this Sunday at home.
ILB Darron Lee vs. TE Mercedes Lewis:
Lewis is coming off of a 3 touchdown performance against the Baltimore Ravens and the Ravens have to know that Darron Lee has been vulnerable in coverage. Blake Bortles could view the match-up as an opportunity to stay with the hat hand in Lewis and look his way when the Ravens are in the red zone.
Jets D-line vs. RB Leonard Fournette:
Fournette is only averaging around 3.5 yards per carry, but the battering ram running back will test the Jets defensive line (and linebackers) early on. If they don’t find a way to keep him in check, the Jaguars will likely give the Jets a big dose of the heavy hitter. If the Jets defense gets gassed early, the Jags could also turn to former Jets RB Chris Ivory whose fresh legs and physical style could set him up for a big day as well.
DL Leonard Williams vs. LT Cam Robinson:
The Jets like to move their defensive linemen around in multiple looks, and Williams, while nursing a sore wrist, is still looking for his first sack of the season. Robinson, a rookie out of Alabama, should give Williams, now in his third year, an opportunity to make some impact plays on defense.
WR Robby Anderson vs. CB AJ Bouye:
Bouye has been a big reason for Jacksonville’s improved defense and Robby Anderson was a key factor in the Jets offense getting going last week against the Dolphins. Anderson’s 69-yard touchdown pass was the team’s offensive highlight of the day. Look for quarterback Josh McCown to take a couple of deep shots down the field to Anderson, who has had success in beating some of the leagues best cornerbacks since last season.
RB’s Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire vs MLB Paul Posluszny:
Matt Forte is on the shelf for this one with a bout of turf toe, so Jets fans will get their wish and see a heavy dose of Bilal Powell and rookie running back Elijah McGuire. Both Powell and McGuire do an excellent job of finding a hole if it’s there and finding their way through it. When they do, it will be Posluszny’s job to limit the damage at the second level.
RT Ben Ijalana/Brent Qvale vs. OLB Dante Fowler
Brandon Shell has been listed as doubtful in this one and that will likely mean Ijalana or Qvale will take his place. If so, Fowler will likely be moved around a fair bit and get his chance to make some plays against a pair of tackles who are adequate at best. Josh McCown has been solid for Gang Green in the early going, and Jacksonville would like nothing more than to disrupt his timing with some heavy blitz packages.
The Jets will be hoping for a better turnout than they saw last week, but in all reality it’s going to take more than a win or two to convince the fan base that this team is worth making the trek for and Sunday’s game probably won’t help.
The Jets get ready to kick off the 2017 season with a trip up to Orchard Park to take on the division rival Buffalo Bills. Both teams are viewed as top competitors for the number one pick in the 2018 draft, but none of that will mean anything on Sunday when both teams sitting at 0-0, look to start their respective seasons on the right foot.
Who: NY Jets (0-0) vs Buffalo Bills (0-0)
When: Sunday at 1pm
Where: New Era Stadium
Point Spread: Jets +9
Todd Bowles starts his third season at the helm for the Jets with a cumulative record of 15-17 and no playoff appearances. An offseason roster overhaul has left the Jets with plenty of young potential, but few established play makers. Bowles is viewed by some as already being on the hot seat, though ownership has said that the playoffs aren’t a mandate, which is good news for Bowles. For the third year coach, the season will be all about preparation, effort and development.
After spending the last 8 seasons of his coaching career as a defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers, Sean McDermott enters the season wearing the head coach title for the first time. Like the Jets, the Bills have jettisoned much of their top talent this off-season, so there will be challenges ahead.
Players and Match ups to watch:
WR Robby Anderson vs CB Tre’Davious White: The Bills’ first round draft chioce, White will likely see his fair share of time going head-to-head with the Jets’ new number one receiver in Anderson who spent almost all of last season beating secondaries deep down the field but coming away with nothing to show for it as Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t able to put enough on the ball to get it to Anderson. Nobody is going to confuse Josh McCown’s arm with Brett Favre’s, but he’ll throw a better deep ball than Fitzpatrick, ,giving Anderson a fighting chance.
C Wesley Johnson vs Bills DT’s
No matter who lines up over Johnson on a given play, he has to do a better job than he did this pre-season or the pocket will be collapsing around Josh McCown early and often, and they’ll be no rhythm in the running game.
LT Kelvin Beachum and Jets starting right tackle vs DL Jerry Hughes and DL Shaq Lawson– For strategic purposes, Todd Bowles has refused to tip his hand as to who his starting right tackle will be on Sunday. Whoever it is, they’re likely to have their hands full as Hughes and Lawson could pose a problem for Beachum and either Brandon Shell, Brent Qvale or Ben Ijalana. For all of the concerns about the quarterback position, Beachum struggled in pass protection last season with Jacksonville, and if he can’t keep the quarterback safe this season, it won’t matter all that much who’s under center.
CB Juston Burris and Marcus Maye vs WR Zay Jones: Jones and his 4.45 speed could be an issue for Juston Burris if the physical cornerback isn’t able to get a jam at the line of scrimmage. Jones will be catching balls from a very good deep ball passer in Tyrod Taylor and while Burris has been mostly good this pre-season, he has struggled when matched up with speedy Jets receiver Robby Anderson.
Rookie safety Marcus Maye becomes part of the equation if asked to help Burris on deep shots down the field. Maye has looked impressive in camp, but has been vulnerable to the deep ball in college, something we haven’t seen him defend much this preseason.
DL Leonard Williams vs C Eric Wood: Ascending star Leonard Williams will face off against the stellar Eric Wood in the middle of it all on Sunday. If the Jets can’t slow down Buffalo’s Shady McCoy early on, Buffalo will keep going to him as long as it’s working. If Williams (and Steve McClendon) can move Wood off his spot early on, the Bills will have to adjust. McCoy will also be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, and that’s where our next match up picks up.
Demario Davis and Darron Lee vs RB Shady McCoy and TE Charles Clay: Davis has been exposed in the past in coverage and the Bills will look to do it again on Sunday. McCoy will be a handful for Davis if the Bills are able to get the two in an isolated match up.
Clay is an oft injured but very underrated weapon in the passing game. Look for the Bills to utilize Clay and McCoy based on where Davis lines up. Lee, while the more athletic of the two jets inside ‘backers, will have to prove that he’s improved enough from year one to make teams shy away from throwing his way. Until that happens, he’ll be targeted in the passing game as well.
Prediction: Bills 27- Jets 10 as Buffalo pulls away late, taking advantage of a worn down Jets defense.
Thoughts on these match ups? Key players to watch of your own? Log in to our forums here and share your thoughts.
With their 53 man roster set (kind of), the Jets released their first depth chart and as usual, there are a few spots worth noting, starting with the quarterback position.
It looks like Todd Bowles did the right thing and placed Bryce Petty in the no. 2 spot behind starter Josh McCown. Petty was light years better than Christian Hackenberg from start to finish this pre-season, and clearly earned the back up job.
Much of the off-season and pre-season was spent discussing right tackles Brandon Shell and Brent Qvale as the candidates to start, but it appears one of the teams starters from last season, Ben Ijalana will get first crack at the job after working at both tackle spots throughout camp.
Despite rumors of the team looking to move him via trade, the elder statesman of the offense, Matt Forte, is listed as the team’s starting running back once again. Now we wait for the season to unfold and see just how carries are split between Forte, Bilal Powell and rookie Elijah McGuire. At this point in time, Forte may be the least effective back on the roster.
The center battle appears to have gone to incumbent Wesley Johnson, but don’t be surprised if we see some others get a look at some point this season.
Wide receiver Jalin Marshall, who is suspended for the first four games of the season, is listed as the team’s no. 2 receiver across from Robby Anderson.