Examining the Future of the New York Jets' Offensive Line

By Dan Pizzuta
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line of the New York Jets was somewhat of an enigma during the 2012 NFL season. Depending on what statistics you look at or where you get those stats from, the Jets offensive line was somewhere between really good and terrible.

Yes, that is a rather large margin of error and that is mainly because there is no perfect or universal statistic to measure the play of an offensive line. Obviously, it’s much harder to determine how much an offensive line contributed to a nine-yard run by a running back than to just point out the running back ran for nine yards.

Of course there are people like Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders who attempt to measure the effectiveness of a team’s offensive line.

In their 2012 rankings, Pro Football Focus had the Jets as the third best offensive line in the league. This was the result of a combination of ranking seventh in pass blocking, third in run blocking and third in penalties—by PFF’s standards.

Football Outsiders has a similar appreciation for the Jets as run blockers. The Jets ranked fourth in FO’s Adjusted Line Yards statistic (a stat which weights each running play’s reliance on the offensive line). The Jets also rank 24th in Second Level Yards—meaning runs that get 5-10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Football Outsiders notes a team with a high ranking in Adjusted Line Yards and low ranking in Second Level Yards is more reliant on the offensive line than the running back to produce yards on the ground.

Football Outsiders is less kind analyzing the pass protection. The Jets rank 30th in Adjusted Sack Rate, which adjusts for down, distance and opponent during sacks and intentional grounding penalties. The Jets’ 8.6 percent was tied with the Green Bay Packers, who gave up more total sacks, and was better than only the San Diego Chargers at 8.9 percent (as a reference point, the top teams were around the low fours).

So where does that leave the Jets in terms of tinkering with the offensive line this offseason? Well, that depends.

Both starting guards, Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, are slated to become unrestricted free agents.

Moore should be brought back, but the price may be an issue. The franchise tag for an offensive lineman this offseason is around $9 million, which would be about a $5 million increase for Moore for the one year the Jets can’t afford to overspend, so the Jets should try to avoid that. If Moore and the Jets can come to a multi-year deal that starts more cap-friendly in the first year, it should be a no-brainer to keep his veteran presence on the line.

Slauson, for the most part, was the weak link on the line and is coming off his rookie contract. If his asking price stays relatively low, bringing him back could be an option. If not, a second- or third-round pick at guard could keep at least the same level of production at around the same price, while giving a chance to a younger player to develop—especially in pass blocking.

The biggest move of the offseason, though, stemming from the offensive line won’t have anything to do with any offensive linemen. The strength shown in run blocking should allow the Jets to part ways with Shonn Greene for a younger, cheaper and probably more effective option at running back.

Per Football Outsiders’ DVOA, Greene was a below league average running back on a per play basis. Behind this offensive line, an average runner should be able to produce above average results. As many smart front offices in the league are learning it is rarely wise to give out a big contract or spend a high draft pick on a running back, the Jets would be better served waiting until the later rounds to draft one.

The offensive line is, luckily for the Jets, one group on the field that won’t have to be improved upon in the offseason. Minor changes are the most that will be needed, which is much more than the Jets can say about most of the other positions on the field.


For more NFL fun, follow Dan on Twitter @DanPizzuta.

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