Jets Offensive Line Review: Unit 'Kept Fighting' Through a 'Crazy Year'

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On the Roster in 2019

Table inside Article
Player GP/GS/DNP/IA Off/ST Snaps
T Brandon Shell 15/11/0/1 806/56
T Kelvin Beachum 13/13/0/3 805/0
G Alex Lewis 15/12/0/0 764/52
C Jonotthan Harrison 16/10/0/0 679/28
G Brian Winters 9/9/0/0 526/0
T Chuma Edoga 8/8/1/5 421/1
G Tom Compton 14/5/1/1 363/48
C Ryan Kalil 7/7/0/2 343/0
G Kelechi Osemele 3/3/0/3 185/5
OL Conor McDermott 7/2/3/3 141/29
OL Brent Qvale 3/1/0/0 77/12
OL Ben Braden 1/0/0/0 0/5
C Leo Koloamatangi 0/0/5/2 0/0

Injured Reserve: Compton, Edoga, Kalil, Lewis, Winters
Practice Squad: OL Corbin Kaufusi, OL Brad Lundblade, OL Jimmy Murray
Not with team: Osemele
Reserve/Future Signing: C.Kaufusi, Lundblade, Murray

Potential Free Agents in 2020
Unrestricted: Beachum, Compton, Kalil, Lewis, Qvale, Shell
Restricted: Koloamatangi

Looking Back
And Jets fans thought 2016 was a rough year for the offensive line. Well it was, but 2019 was rougher. This past season's OL led the '16 unit in number of different starters (11 to 10) and O-linemen who finished the season on Injured Reserve (5 to 4).

And that doesn't even count the 2-0 margin of Kelvin Beachum's sprained ankles to healthy ankles over the second half of the past season.

Said C Jonotthan Harrison of his injury-ravaged unit: "I've been through something similar, but never this severe. This was a crazy year."

Thirty-one seemed to be the Jets' ranking for the year: Their offense was 31st in the NFL in rush yards/game, first downs/game and third-down conversion rate. They were 30th in sacks allowed/pass play.

But like the team at large, the offense and the line in particular gained some footholds and made some progress from the start of the season to the finish. The run game improved slightly every third of the season, especially in yards before first contact. Sam Darnold's pass protection improved even more.

And one curious development was in penalties, which had been an area of concern during the 1-7 start but got better for the offense as the season wore on. Specifically, the O committed just one penalty over the last four games combined. The last time a Jets offense had zero or one penalty marked off against it in any four-game span was way back in the pre-Super Bowl buildup of 1967.

It's even more remarkable that the O-line, rearranged on a weekly basis, didn't commit a single false start, hold or illegal use of hands in that last quarter.

"I think it was just a heightened level of focus and a heightened level of urgency," Beachum said, "realizing that we just didn't have many opportunities left. And you never want to be the person that's hurting the team. I just think we had a collection of guys that wanted to be positive contributors."

See the Top Images Throughout the 2019 Jets Season

Looking Ahead
There's no telling how many of the 14 different line starters will return in 2020. "That's the NFL," Beachum said. "You never know."

Six of the 11 different starters — tackles Beachum and Brandon Shell, guards Alex Lewis, Tom Compton and Brent Qvale, and center Ryan Kalil — can become unrestricted free agents. C Leo Koloamatangi, who was active late in the season but didn't play, can be a restricted FA. Corbin Kaufusi, Brian Lundblade and Jimmy Murray, who all ended the year on the practice squad, have signed reserve/future deals.

And free agency and the draft beckon. As general manager Joe Douglas said in his end-of-season news conference: "Moving forward, the line of scrimmage is always going to be a priority here and so it's definitely going to be something that we're going to look to improve every year."

That being said, the Jets' O-linemen, in Douglas' phrasing, "were able to stick together" and salvage something from the team's downward start with their upward trending by year's end.

"Really, it was just the guys were buying in and not quitting," Harrison said. "It's easy to fold and quit when times get tough or when you have all these different moving parts. But the guys kept fighting. There were a lot of selfless guys in this locker room. It was very impressive."

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