At 0-3 on the season, nothing has gone right for the Jets this year. Losing their starting quarterback to mono has grabbed most of the attention but even when Sam Darnold returns there will still be a glaring problem making his life harder. That problem is this offensive line has been a disaster.
On defense the Jets have some issues at cornerback and obviously miss the presence of C.J. Mosley, but the defense has mostly help up. Losing Quincy Enunwa and dealing with Chris Herndon’s suspension (he will be available to return after the Eagles game) has left the backup quarterbacks with Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios as the receiving options. But by far the biggest problem has been the play of the offensive line.
The Jets brought Ryan Kalil out of retirement and he has looked exactly like a 34-year-old center who had retired a couple of months ago. Both Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell have been getting abused on the edges. Brian Winters and Kelechi Osemele are getting bullied on the inside and the entire unit has struggled every week so far. They can’t open up holes for Le’Veon Bell in the running game and they certainly haven’t been able to slow down the opposing pass rush. Darnold returning will help some against the pass rush, because of his ability to move in and out of the pocket, but you can’t expect the offense to take a huge leap as soon as Darnold comes back as long as this offensive line continues to struggle.
“There are definitely some things that we have to clean up,” Adam Gase said. “There are some things we have to clean up from a coaching aspect. There are some things that we’ve got to clean up from a play-caller perspective. I just think that going forward, what we need to do is, take what we’re practicing and the way we’re practicing and the speed we’re practicing with and really transfer that over to Sunday’s, which we haven’t done yet. I think we’ve just got to keep looking to figure out what are the best five guys for us.”
When you have to think about who the best five guys are during the season, that means the five guys you’ve had starting so far have not been getting the job done. The excuse of them not getting to play as a unit in preseason is over now, as is any other excuse they can come up with. All that matters is that they haven’t been getting the job done.
“As far as the o-line goes, we’re going to work through that this week and kind of figure out what’s best for us to do on Sunday,” Gase said. “I would just say this, all those guys know that we’re coming in this week, we’re competing and we’re going to put the five guys that we think give us our best chance out there.”
Jets fans are certainly familiar with the phrase, “we think give us our best chance,” usually it’s in reference to the quarterback and usually it means there won’t actually be any changes. Gase is dropping hints that changes could be made, and will have to be made if things don’t turn around, but he’s leaving himself some wiggle room to stick with the current lineup.
If any changes are made this week the most likely change would be swapping in Jonotthan Harrison for Kalil at center. Harrison was set to be the starter until the Jets lured Kalil out of retirement and they have taken steps to keep Harrison sharp for exactly this move. The second most likely change would be putting Alex Lewis in for Winters (or Tom Compton, but most likely Lewis).
The problem the Jets face is as bad as the starting unit has been, there’s no reason to think the backups (outside of maybe Harrison) can actually play better. They really one have one possible backup they can try at tackle and that’s the rookie, Chuma Edoga. At some point during the season they will need to throw Edoga out there and see what he can do simply so they know if they can count on him next year. Or do they need to get an entirely new offensive line in the offseason?
The playoffs are out of reach this year, that dream is dead, but we still need to evaluate Darnold and Gase, both individually and how they worked together. The best way to do that will be to get competence out of the offensive line, somehow, someway, lineup changes or not, Gase and Frank Pollack need to figure out how to make this line at least halfway decent.
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