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OL Seeks Greater Consistency Going Forward

Posted Jan 17, 2018

Linemen Formed a Game Group in '17 but Will Need to Do More to Reach the Next Level in '18


On the Active Roster in 2017 (GP/GS, Offensive Snaps)
LG James Carpenter (16/16, 1036), LT Kelvin Beachum (16/16, 1035), C Wesley Johnson (15/15, 938), RG Brian Winters (13/13, 807), RT Brandon Shell (12/12, 697), OL Brent Qvale (16/6, 394), G Dakota Dozier (14/3, 249), C Jonotthan Harrison (8/1, 103), T Ben Ijalana (11/0, 103).

Potential Free Agents in 2018
Unrestricted: Dakota Dozier, Jonotthan Harrison, Wesley Johnson. Restricted: Brent Qvale.

Some Ups, Some Downs
The Jets' offensive line had some high points against playoff teams in the just concluded 2017 season.

There was the 256 rushing yards in the 23-20 Game 4 OT win over the Jaguars, who finished the regular season with the NFL's No. 2 overall defense and are the underdog darlings of the postseason as they head to New England for Sunday's AFC title game.

The Thursday night success against the Bills also stands out — 194 rush yards, three rush touchdowns and one sack allowed in the 34-21 primetime victory.

And the last win of the season, a stirring 38-31 verdict over the Chiefs, was a gritty affair for the O-line as it blocked for 157 yards on a season-high 49 running plays, for three more TDs on the ground, and the only no-sack game of the season.

"That's a lunchpail group," QB Josh McCown said after rushing for two touchdowns and five first downs in that game. "For us to be able to get into the end zone because they were wanting it to be on their backs, wanting us to dial their number, that was fun to get down and get behind those guys and push the ball in the end zone with them."

But those showings weren't duplicated enough to everyone's liking over the full schedule. Six games produced sub-3.0-yards/carry games, five of them on the road (at the Bills, Browns, Buccaneers, Broncos and Patriots). The blockers yielded six sacks at Tampa Bay and were 29th on the year in sacks allowed/pass play. The offense converted less than 50% of its third-and-1 plays (6-of-17) for the first time in franchise history.

Most of the O-linemen talked about seeking more cohesiveness, and head coach Todd Bowles agreed

"We need more consistency," Bowles said late in the year. "They’re working hard and they’re working together. Some guys are nicked here or there. Sometimes the scheme beats us on the other side of the ball, sometimes we miss an assignment here or there. But they’re working hard and I have full confidence these guys will come out and play."


Looking Ahead
One key to consistency is having the same cast of characters game in and game out. This year's O-line was more stable than the 2016 unit, with Brian Winters playing through an abdomen injury for most of the season until going on IR late, C Wes Johnson missing one start and RT Brandon Shell sitting out four games. LG James Carpenter was the offense's iron man, playing in all 1,036 plays, while LT Kelvin Beachum sat out just one play.

Only one position could possibly take a hit in pro free agency, as both Johnson and backup Jonotthan Harrison could become unrestricted free agents in March. Dakota Dozier could also be a UFA and versatile Brent Qvale could become restricted.

First-year men Ben Braden, who spent the whole season on the practice squad, and Korren Kirven, on the PS for the last three games, both signed reserve/future deals.

Should the five who started most of the games this year return, there's nothing wrong with the age and experience of, from left to right, Beachum (29, 7th year), Carpenter (29, 8th), Johnson (28, 5th), Winters (27, 6th) and Shell (26, 3rd).

There's a long way to go before next year's OL lineup is set. Yet even with new free agents and draft picks yet to be incorporated, the linemen's belief in themselves, as captured by Johnson in December, will remain the same:

"We believe we're one of the best lines in the league. We know we've got to go out and show it every week."