After an offseason marked by a lack of ideal continuity, the Jets offensive line took another hit last week prior to their season-opening loss to the Ravens. Veteran LT Duane Brown got injured in practice last Monday and was placed on injured reserve Saturday, necessitating a George Fant shift across the line to LT and rookie Max Mitchell's insertion into the starting lineup at RT. The gameday results were uneven as the Jets fared well on the ground but QB Joe Flacco was sacked three times and hit on 11 occasions during a 24-9 loss.
"Not good enough," C Connor McGovern told reporters Monday. "We gave up that many pressures, not giving Flacco the time he needs. We obviously need to be better. I think we have kind of started to find our way a little bit in the run game. I know at one point, I think going into the half, we were averaging six yards a carry or something like that. So, we just have to keep building on that and then just making a lot of improvements in the protection side."
The Jets averaged 5.7 yards on their 13 run attempts in the first half and they got 22-yard and 14-yard carries from Michael Carter and Breece Hall. It looked like a 100-yard day could be in the offing for Carter, but the second-year runner had just two carries in the final 30 minutes after amassing 53 yards on his eight attempts in the first 30 minutes. A 10-3 halftime deficit grew to 14 and 21 points in the third quarter after a pair of long Lamar Jackson scoring passes and the Jets' plan changed.
McGovern said of the run game: "I think that's how they built this offensive line; you build off the outside zone, you throw in inside zone and gap schemes to throw curveballs, you run play action pass, everybody knows what this tree is. That's what we're built to do, this system works really well in close games and keeping stuff tight, and once you let the game get out of hand like we kind of did there in the third quarter, then it's just drop back. You're trying to make do with what you have and get the big chunk plays and score fast and get as many possessions as you can. When a d-line knows that that's coming, it's a lot harder to protect."
The line will face a Browns team in week two that racked up four sacks of Baker Mayfield and held the Panthers to just 54 yards on the ground in Cleveland's Week 1 win. Myles Garrett, who has racked up multiple sacks in three of the four games he's played against the Jets, and Jadeveon Clowney, who had 9 sacks last year for the Browns, form one of the better edge duos in the NFL. Barring any injuries, the Jets should line up with the same five starters along the line Sunday in Cleveland.
"It's all fixable," McGovern said of the mistakes. "It wasn't just guys getting absolutely smoked and just weren't physically able to play the game, it was guys making little mistakes here, little mistakes there, kind of playing outside of their element."
Cool Joe (Flacco)
Joe Flacco became the Jets' seventh different-opening day starter in the past 11 seasons, throwing for 307 yards in the loss to the Ravens. When asked Monday if he would stay with Flacco at QB in week two, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said "everything is always under discussion and review" but reiterated that the club has the "upmost" faith in Flacco.
"As of now, Joe's our starting quarterback," Saleh said.
Limited to 9 points despite four trips inside the +50 on Sunday, the Jets have to improve their third-down efficiency against the Browns after going 2 of 14 against the Ravens. Saleh lamented a poor play call, a drop from WR Corey Davis, a fumble from TE Tyler Conklin and lack of aggressiveness from Elijah Moore in a contested one-on-one situation.
"Corey is a veteran, he's got to make those plays," Saleh said. "I think that was his one bad play. You expect Conklin, who is a veteran, to be able to convert and do those things. But again, collectively as a group we got to figure out how to win and figure out how to win quick. Coaches included."
C Connor McGovern, who snapped to Flacco in Denver (2019) and over the past three seasons with the Jets, believes the line must be better for the veteran backup at the controls with Zach Wilson (knee) slated to miss the season's first three games.
"Obviously, as an o-line, we can definitely help him a lot compared to what we did," McGovern said. If we firm up, there are a lot more throws to be had."
See the best images from the opening game of the 2022 season at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets have a lot of things to build off entering week two. The Ravens' 63 yards on the ground was their lowest output with Lamar Jackson at staring quarterback. Going back to at least 2000, CB D.J. Reed became the first Jets to record an INT and FF in a kickoff weekend debut. WR Garrett Wilson (52 yards) and RB Breece Hall (61 yards) became the first pair of Jets rookies with 50+ scrimmage yards in their Week 1 kickoff debuts. In his first game since Week 12 of last year, Elijah Moore had a 24-yard reception, marking his seventh straight game with at least one reception of 20+yards, the second-longest active streak in the league according to Tru Media. Seven Jets played their first NFL games including Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner, who according to Next Gen Stats allowed two receptions for 19 yards on four targets over 29 coverage snaps.
"If you're going to go silver lining, it's that we were exposed to some situations yesterday that, especially in the second half, we talked about it, learning how to win football games, getting into those crunch moments when you're in a tight game and you're going blow for blow, making the plays necessary to win football games and that's where you're going to find out a lot about this football team as we continue to grow," Saleh said of a group that saw 18 players suit up for the first time with the Green & White. "So, you just trust that they've been exposed to those situations, you identify it and show it on tape, and you address what it is, and they're all teachable moments. They're professionals, this is a really, really good group of guys, and you just have faith that they're going to get it done, including the coaches."