Jets Will Need Their Improved Offensive Line to Play Big Again at the Bengals
A major reason why the New York Jets are currently on a three-game winning streak is their offensive line, a unit that was much-maligned is suddenly coming into form. Perhaps it should be no surprise that quarterback Sam Darnold has put together his best performances of the season during this stretch of improved protection.
The returns on the offensive line during this winning streak have been good, but they as a unit will be tested this week against a good Cincinnati Bengals defensive front.
On Sunday in a 34-3 win over the Oakland Raiders, Darnold was sacked just once, a season low. This trend of improved protection for Darnold is encouraging, especially since the Jets have allowed the fifth-most quarterback hits (78) this year and the third most sacks (42).
The offense has been clicking over these last three games of improved offensive line play. On Sunday, Darnold received an 83.3 grade from Pro Football Focus, the fifth-highest quarterback rating for Week 12.
A major reason why Darnold had an efficient game – completing 69% of his passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns (with no interceptions) – is because the protection against the Raiders front was tremendous.
“Yeah, they've been great - they have just been communicating so well. They are sync with each other right now and it's really fun to be able to be behind those guys and know that I am all good,” Darnold said on a conference call with the media on Monday.
“Usually, especially with the sack, it definitely was a coverage sack, a ball that I would have hoped to throw away in the future if that opportunity comes up, but they have been doing a great job these last few weeks and I know they are not satisfied either, they are going to continue to get better and they've been awesome so far.”
The improvement from the offensive line is not just noticeable, it is stark.
Consider that, in Week 8, Darnold was sacked eight times in a loss at the Jacksonville Jaguars. Improvement came after that disaster as over the next four games, the Jets have allowed eight sacks combined. And during the course of their current three-game winning streak, the line has conceded just five sacks during this particular stretch.
This Sunday, against the 0-11 Bengals, will provide quite the challenge for the Jets. The Bengals are aggressive in coming after the quarterback and have a talented front group.
Two weeks ago, the Bengals sacked Raiders quarterback Derek Carr three times and had seven quarterback hits. Defensive lineman Geno Atkins had a big day in that game with five tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for a loss.
If the Jets are to extend their win streak to four games, then the offensive line will have to come through big again.