If one game is an indication of things to come, the New York Jets are in trouble — and Zach Wilson should keep those legs warm.
Gang Green’s offensive line once again was a liability in their 2021 season opener on Sunday, a 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers and their old friend, Sam Darnold.
Making his NFL debut after being selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 draft, Wilson spent much of the afternoon running for his life rather than being able to show off an arm that has many hoping he can be the franchise-saving quarterback.
He was sacked six times throughout the afternoon, though he was able to stabilize as the game continued.
But under no circumstances is it acceptable for the perceived franchise quarterback to spend as much time as he did evading an onslaught of pressure — which is an indictment on the offensive line even if head coach Robert Saleh wouldn’t yield to such a notion.
“There’s a lot of things that are involved in protection. I’m never going to just blame the offensive line, especially when you look at the first half when a lot of those breakdowns happened,” Saleh said. “There’s route running, there’s the quarterback getting rid of the football, there’s protection, obviously. Then, there’s a credit to those guys who won some one-on-ones and did some things schematically that were pretty darn good.
“At the end of the day, the protection’s got to hold up. But it’s a collective effort, not just solely on the offensive line.’’
There are even numbers to back up the blocking struggles, as noted analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked each member of the Jets’ offensive line as follows:
- LT Mekhi Becton: 66.4
- LG Alijah Vera-Tucker: 65.1
- C Connor McGovern: 45.4
- RG Greg Van Roten: 54.3
- RT George Fant: 60.1.
While the Jets wait on official word of Becton’s injury — initial reports suggest that he sprained his MCL — there’s much work to be done to try and keep their prized quarterback on his feet and in the pocket a bit longer.
“Especially with a young quarterback, they’re going to heat you up,’’ McGovern said of the pressure Carolina sent. “It’s nothing we didn’t prepare for, but when a team’s blitzing you every snap, it might be a little softer than normal. It’s kind of what we expected and what we prepared for. We just need to execute better.”