Florham Park, N.J.- This was evident in the Jets embarrassing 31-0 blowout loss to the San Diego Chargers. Chargers pass-rushers repeatedly beat the Jets offensive line resulting in tackles for loss, hurried throws, two turnovers, five quarterback hits and two sacks.
The Chargers probably could have had more sacks if not for the mobility of both Smith and backup quarterback Michael Vick.
At times during the game, it seemed as if the Chargers were in the Jets’ backfield before they even snapped the ball. What can you expect from either Smith or Vick if they have no time in the pocket?
Jets offensive linemen have had their struggles this season that even goes for three-time All-Pro center Nick Mangold and three-time Pro-Bowl tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
In week four against the Lions, Mangold snapped a ball 10 feet over Smith’s head resulting in a large loss of yardage and last week was called for an illegal hands to the face penalty which pushed the Jets back 15 yards.
Ferguson was beat continually in the game against San Diego and called for a false start penalty.
While Mangold and Ferguson haven’t played like the back of their football cards, they are not the sole reason why the offensive line is struggling. If blame must be assigned, it should be put on the shoulders of guards Willie Colon and Brian Winters.
Both Colon and Winters have vastly underperformed this season. Colon, who is coming off offseason knee surgery, in which he has also dealt with calf ailments in addition to his balky knee, which has limited him in practice.
The 31-year-old looks a step slower, which shows, in his four false start penalties through the first five games.
False start penalties have at times plagued the Jets during the season and have contributed to their struggles according to Rex Ryan.
“The four penalties we had offensively, false starts, you can’t have that. “ Said Ryan after their loss to the Lions, “There is no need for it. We have to improve the details of what we are doing.”
Colon has also missed some blocking assignments.
In the game against the Chargers, Colon was beat by his man on a few plays most notably when running back Chris Johnson’s fumble.
While the fumble was 100 percent Johnson’s fault the pressure applied by Colon’s man did not allow the play to properly develop and Johnson was hit almost immediately resulting in the turnover.
The play was a major momentum shift in the game because it occurred right after the Jets intercepted Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in the end zone.
At the time the Jets were only down by seven and had plenty of time to mount a scoring drive, but with the fumble the Jets nullified their turnover.
Winters who was in a training camp competition with Oday Aboushi, has struggled as well. The 2013 third-round pick has at times looked overmatched when going against defensive tackles.
The biggest example of Winters being overmatched happened on the play that may have turned the Jets fortunes from a team on the rise to a team that is currently in disarray.
With the Jets up 21-9 and driving on the road against the Green Bay Packers, Smith had a wide open Zach Sudfeld for a would be touchdown. Winters however was beaten badly, to put it nicely, by Packers defensive end Mike Daniels.
Daniels took out Smiths’ legs as he threw resulting in him throwing a wobbly pass to Sudfeld which was then intercepted by Packers cornerback Tramon Williams.
Instead of the Jets potentially taking a 28-9, or at least a 24-9 lead, the Packers drove 97 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead 21-16.
That is another example of the offensive line’s poor play leading to a momentum swing in the other team’s direction. An argument can be made that Smith shouldn’t have thrown the pass or Johnson should have held on to the ball, which are valid points, but with better play out of the offensive line, they may not have been in such precarious positions.
While statistics may not tell the whole story of how good or bad a team is playing, they do offer an idea. On average, the Jets give up almost three sacks a game (2.75 to be exact) and over six quarterback hits (6.5 to be exact).
Imagine what those numbers would be if Smith wasn’t mobile. At times he is able to evade pressure and make something out of nothing but his attempts of trying to do too much lead him to turnovers something he acknowledges needs to improve.
“When it comes to turnovers, this has been an issue, definitely, for us and for myself.” Said Smith, “And the key thing is that I’m always being mindful of the situation and knowing that if a guy’s coming free, maybe sometimes I’ve got to take a sack or something like that.”
Even when there is good pass protection, at times, Smith has kept his eyes on the rushers rather than look downfield because he anticipates a hit is coming and wants to avoid one.
Smith has struggled and there is plenty of blame to go around and much of that blame should be put on the large shoulders of the offensive line.