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Is OL depth worse than we thought?


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https://www.sny.tv/jets/news/bga-qvale-or-ijalana/185757146 

We begin with a look at a couple of back-up offensive linemen, Brent Qvale and Ben Ijalana. Can either of these players compete with Breno Giacomini for a starting role at right tackle and which one is best equipped to fill in if Giacomini or Ryan Clady gets hurt?

Let's compare and contrast the two players in terms of their physical attributes, technical ability and performance so far at the NFL level to get a better idea of where their futures may lie.

Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.

The story so far

Qvale was an undrafted rookie who eventually earned a contract with the Jets after initially attending their rookie camp on a try-out basis. After spending his rookie year on the Jets' practice squad, the coaching staff suggested he was in the mix to start at right guard in 2015. However, in preseason, he only saw action at tackle.

Qvale was retained on the 53-man roster all season as a reserve tackle and saw action on offense in seven games, albeit only 33 snaps in total. Most of that work saw him operating as a sixth lineman in short yardage packages.

Entering 2016, there has once again been some buzz that Qvale could be in the mix to start, this time at right tackle, where he was getting some first team reps at mandatory minicamp. Whether this promise will actually manifest itself in preseason remains to be seen, though. 

By contrast, Ijalana was a highly heralded draft prospect and eventually went to the Colts with the 49th pick of the 2011 draft. However, two ACL tears later, he failed to make their roster in his third season and the Jets picked him up off waivers.

Ijalana has been retained as a reserve tackle for the past three regular season campaigns. However, he's been a healthy scratch most of the time, seeing action in just three regular season games with the Jets. 

He perhaps would have seen more action last year if not for the fact he suffered a minor injury in preseason. This put his availability for opening day and therefore his roster spot in doubt, but the Jets opted to take the risk that Qvale wouldn't be called into emergency action in his first game, over perhaps retaining the veteran Charles Brown until Ijalana's return. Brown ended up in Dallas, essentially playing the same jumbo tight end/emergency back-up role as Qvale had with the Jets.

When his contract expired at the end of last season, it didn't look like the team would bring Ijalana back. However, nobody picked him up in the first few weeks of free agency and when news broke that starting left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson was planning to retire, the Jets re-signed Ijalana to a one-year deal on the same day.

The Jets' current starters at tackle are Clady and Giacomini and current indications are that it is likely to stay that way. However, Clady has been injury prone over the last few years, so whoever wins the swing tackle role might get called upon to start at some point. Also, Giacomini had an uneven year in 2015 and the team will save over $4 million if they release him, so if anyone cheaper can push him close, that might give them an edge.

Physical attributes

My initial impression of Ijalana was an athletic and polished tackle in a prototypical frame that perhaps lost a step due to his knee issues. By contrast, Qvale seemed like a typical Nebraska lineman, being more of a road-grading run blocker without natural athleticism. However, they actually profile more similarly than you would expect.

While Ijalana's long (36") arms are one of the main things that attracted scouts, Qvale also has long arms and is actually 2½ inches taller than Ijalana.

In terms of athletic numbers, they're both above average with an identical 40-yard dash time of 5.20. Qvale has the better vertical jump and three-cone drill, while Ijalana has the edge in terms of short shuttle and broad jump, so they are pretty evenly matched. Ijalana looks strong on film, but didn't do the bench press at his pro day because he was coming off a hernia injury. Qvale did 24 reps, which is pretty good for someone with long arms.

All-in-all, these numbers probably suggest that if Ijalana has lost a step due to his knee issues, then Qvale is probably more athletic right now. That hasn't seemed apparent from watching their film so far, though.

As noted, injuries have been a factor for Ijalana, while Qvale has only had minor knee and head injuries since missing the 2009 season with a shoulder issue.

Performance

While the Jets have been and remain high on Qvale, there's a major discrepancy between the consistency of his performance and that of Ijalana.  

In preseason action since 2013, Ijalana has played 268 snaps and compiled a +9.1 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus. However, in 258 preseason snaps over the last two seasons, Qvale has recorded a -12.1 grade. He also graded out worse in 2015 than in 2014, so while that might be a sign that he received tougher assignments last season, there's no positive trend we can point to from the grades.

While we must account for the fact that these reps would mostly be against back-ups so we couldn't necessarily expect Ijalana to grade out as well in real-game action, it's still a strong indicator of how well they performed on those reserve units. In Qvale's case, what's doubly intriguing is the fact that he actually had four positively-graded games and only three negatively-graded games. He just struggled particularly badly in those games, but there were still signs that he could hold his own at times.

While neither has played much in regular season action, the trend continues there with Ijalana grading positively (+1.0) in 43 snaps, while Qvale struggled to a -4.3 grade in 33 snaps last season. 18 of his snaps came in the Jaguars game where the Jets used six linemen a lot as they tried, in vain, to get the running game going. Excluding quarterback runs, they gained just 12 yards on 14 carries with Qvale in the game, but weren't much better (10-17) with him out.

The discrepancy in terms of pass protection numbers is just as bad, with Ijalana allowing just one sack and five total pressures in 170 pass rush snaps of preseason and regular season action, while Qvale allowed four sacks and 12 total pressures in 137.

Penalties are a big issue for Qvale too, as he had six in 191 snaps of preseason and regular season action, while Ijalana played with much more discipline and had none in 211 snaps. Four of those penalties on Qvale were false starts.

Technical ability

Going back and looking over the footage, Qvale's performances were littered with rawness and errors. With the team still being high on him, I would assume they believe most of these issues can be fixed or at least mitigated.

In pass protection, he had one game where he held his own in pass protection only to then fade down the stretch and get beaten a few times as he presumably tired out. Contrast that to Ijalana who had a couple of games with an early mistake or two, where he then settled down from that point onwards and held up well. Qvale struggles at times with speed rushers, so might some help against that type of player. However, that is already the case with Giacomini. Post-injury, Ijalana didn't seem to move as freely and perhaps had lost some agility and the ability to recover inside, but maybe that's less of an issue now he's four years removed from his latest surgery.

In terms of run blocking, both Qvale and Ijalana have shown promise at times. Qvale is aggressive and can make good kick-out blocks and blocks on the move. They've also had some success running behind him on short yardage or goal line plays. However, he is far too inconsistent at the point of attack. Pad level seems to be an issue for him because he'll lose leverage and his man will either get off his block or leverage into the path of the ball carrier to bottle up runs. 

Ijalana impresses in terms of his ability to get out to the second level on runs and screen passes and also displays good strength to drive his man out of a play. Here is an example of when Ijalana (#71) dominated his man on the left side of the line to help set up the winning touchdown in a 2014 game.

 

Intangibles

Both Ijalana and Qvale are regarded as smart players with no attitude concerns. Qvale made some mental errors on the field, including those four false starts, but part of that could perhaps be attributed to his inexperience. Ijalana is about to enter his sixth season so he has a lot more experience. Despite this, he's still only 26, just one year older than Qvale.

Both players provide some versatility and can fill in at the guard position as well as at either tackle spot, if required. Ijalana has mostly played left tackle in preseason and regular season action, but did step in for Willie Colon for a couple of snaps at right guard in 2014. In addition to his regular season jumbo package work, Qvale has mostly played at right tackle in preseason action, but saw some action at left tackle and spent large parts of training camp working at guard. I understand he's also been learning to snap the ball for potential emergency center duties.

One other factor that might be overlooked is their respective salaries. As he's been in the league longer, Ijalana has a minimum salary that is $840K and therefore higher than Qvale's at $525K. However, since he qualifies for the minimum salary benefit, only $680K of Ijalana's salary will count towards the cap. The Jets also guaranteed $150K of that sum so there is not much of a net saving if they release him.

Other alternatives

Could someone other than Qvale or Ijalana force their way into the conversation? Looking at the current roster, the Jets have a lot of players that can play tackle but that are probably better suited to playing inside. For example, 2015 draft pick Jarvis Harrison was getting some reps at right tackle last week according to Rich Cimini, although he apparently struggled in pass protection.

Waiting in the wings, but perhaps a year away from contributing, is rookie Brandon Shell. Shell, the team's 5th round pick this April, has good measurables and I was impressed with his film. If Shell's development curve can be accelerated faster than expected that will give the team another viable option, but we'll have to wait and see what he looks like once the pads go on.

The only other player listed at tackle is futures signing Jesse Davis who I broke down here. Davis has to be considered an extreme long-shot to make the roster and had apparently been getting work on the inside anyway during OTAs.

Conclusions

It's evident that the Jets see something in Qvale. On performance alone, he probably didn't deserve to make last year's team, but they obviously viewed him as a player with room to grow that could eventually be a valuable asset. The way they used him last year, giving him the occasional low-complexity offensive assignment as an extra blocker and finding a few garbage time snaps here and there is a good way of giving him some real-game experience and helping him to build some confidence.

Contrast that with Ijalana, who rode the pine all year and then didn't seem like an option to return until Ferguson's retirement and you can see where this regime has invested their time. While Ijalana's performances at the NFL level have been much more consistent, the team perhaps views him as being closer to his ceiling.

Qvale didn't really live up to the pre-camp hype of being a potential starter last season, as it seemed like he was never really in the mix once Colon was brought back into the fold. As he enters his third offseason, he needs to become a lot more consistent if he's going to deliver on the organization's faith in him.

With Shell perhaps being groomed as a future starter, Qvale must make advancements this offseason otherwise his role will stall at the extra blocker/potential injury replacement stage again.

As for Ijalana, doesn't he deserve more of a shot? While injuries may mean he might not have the same athleticism he entered the league with, he's still a player with good length and technique who has shown in spot duties that he can play with good consistency. He has been unfortunate to play for a team who has had both starting tackles play virtually every snap in each of his three seasons. 

Had he received a chance to start at some point, maybe Ijalana would have proven that he could play with the same level of consistency in real game time and that he could have been the kind of viable starter teams expected him to develop into back when he was a draft prospect. Instead, once he hit the open market, no teams seemed to show any interest, perhaps assuming that because he never got a chance to start with the Jets, his development must have stalled, when the reality is probably that he was just behind more established veterans.

It should be fun to gauge the progress of Qvale and Shell against that of Ijalana in camp this summer. If one of these three can show that they deserve a longer look as a potential starter, then that will get Giacomini looking over his shoulder and it will be interesting to see how well he responds.

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The fact that Breno is still on the team, nonetheless the presumed starter tells you everything you need to know about the Jets offensive line depth. It's been a position largely ignored for a long time in the early rounds of the draft, and anyone they have taken early haven't exactly panned out as they had hoped. It's a major concern no matter who the QB is. 

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Unless the draft picks Harrison and Shell start to make contributions I do not see any depth on the OL. I think the OL will be the start/fail of why the Jets offense is so bad this season. It all starts up front and Mac did nothing to address a deteriorating OL. We'll also find out that the small fry that Mac wasted a 1st round pick on is undersized and ultimately gets swallowed up by much bigger linemen. At best this kid is a one trick pony possibly being able to handle the wheel route.

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2 hours ago, Long Island Leprechaun said:

This is indeed an area of real concern. The whole right side is mediocre.

I think both Winters and Breno are "adequate".  (You say mediocre, I say adequate :))  Winters might even have a slight upside.  My fear is injuries to the starting 5.  If one of them goes down with Geno under center (and I support Geno in general) then we'd be toast.  One bad apple (as we've seen in the past) spoils the whole barrel.    

It's not hard to imagine that some late preseason cut would serve well as a depth upgrade.  

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1 hour ago, Mainejet said:

Unless the draft picks Harrison and Shell start to make contributions I do not see any depth on the OL. I think the OL will be the start/fail of why the Jets offense is so bad this season. It all starts up front and Mac did nothing to address a deteriorating OL. We'll also find out that the small fry that Mac wasted a 1st round pick on is undersized and ultimately gets swallowed up by much bigger linemen. At best this kid is a one trick pony possibly being able to handle the wheel route.

Please make sure that regardless of the topic, you mention "Small Fry Lee." I think we all got your point about a hundred posts ago.

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14 minutes ago, LIJetsFan said:

I think both Winters and Breno are "adequate".  (You say mediocre, I say adequate :))  Winters might even have a slight upside.  My fear is injuries to the starting 5.  If one of them goes down with Geno under center (and I support Geno in general) then we'd be toast.  One bad apple (as we've seen in the past) spoils the whole barrel.    

It's not hard to imagine that some late preseason cut would serve well as a depth upgrade.  

I agree. My main concern is an injury to one of the starters. I mean, look, I think the Jets o-line gets a bad rap. Assuming Clady is healthy, we pretty much have the same O-line we did last year- and Clady is arguably an upgrade when healthy. Last year, first half of the season before Ivory got nicked up, the run game was great, at times dominant. Lest we forget Ivory had a breakout season last year. In the passing game Fitz set Jet records, as did Marshall and the passing attack in general looked better than its looked in a long time. The O-line gave up very little sacks. Now, I know people will say, well, that was Fitz, he gets rid of the ball, he is a savvy vet and knows how not to get sacked. But you can't hold that against the O-line.

I guess my point is, the O-line was really not that bad last year, and we are going in with pretty much the same personnel. The hope is that guys like Qvale, Dozier, Ijalana, maybe even Shell or Harrison have/will improve enough to serve as decent backups. It worries me, there is some uncertainty there. But the fact is, the O-line is solid as it is right now and should not hinder from a productive Offense. Although it would be nice to have a proven, versatile backup that can play OG and OT, that is actually a luxury for most teams- not just the Jets.    

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3 hours ago, Mainejet said:

Unless the draft picks Harrison and Shell start to make contributions I do not see any depth on the OL. I think the OL will be the start/fail of why the Jets offense is so bad this season. It all starts up front and Mac did nothing to address a deteriorating OL. We'll also find out that the small fry that Mac wasted a 1st round pick on is undersized and ultimately gets swallowed up by much bigger linemen. At best this kid is a one trick pony possibly being able to handle the wheel route.

Really, you don't like the 1st rounder?  I had no idea.

Can he put on weight and convert to guard?

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2 hours ago, LIJetsFan said:

I think both Winters and Breno are "adequate".  (You say mediocre, I say adequate :))  Winters might even have a slight upside.  My fear is injuries to the starting 5.  If one of them goes down with Geno under center (and I support Geno in general) then we'd be toast.  One bad apple (as we've seen in the past) spoils the whole barrel.    

It's not hard to imagine that some late preseason cut would serve well as a depth upgrade.  

Winters is a stop gap with no upside.  Breno, well Breno is Breno bad.

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14 hours ago, PepPep said:

I agree. My main concern is an injury to one of the starters. I mean, look, I think the Jets o-line gets a bad rap. Assuming Clady is healthy, we pretty much have the same O-line we did last year- and Clady is arguably an upgrade when healthy. Last year, first half of the season before Ivory got nicked up, the run game was great, at times dominant. Lest we forget Ivory had a breakout season last year. In the passing game Fitz set Jet records, as did Marshall and the passing attack in general looked better than its looked in a long time. The O-line gave up very little sacks. Now, I know people will say, well, that was Fitz, he gets rid of the ball, he is a savvy vet and knows how not to get sacked. But you can't hold that against the O-line.

I guess my point is, the O-line was really not that bad last year, and we are going in with pretty much the same personnel. The hope is that guys like Qvale, Dozier, Ijalana, maybe even Shell or Harrison have/will improve enough to serve as decent backups. It worries me, there is some uncertainty there. But the fact is, the O-line is solid as it is right now and should not hinder from a productive Offense. Although it would be nice to have a proven, versatile backup that can play OG and OT, that is actually a luxury for most teams- not just the Jets.    

Two points I would like to make.   One  the  Jets offense line doesn't need just Ryan Clady staying healthy, but the Jets need him playing at 2013 version.( pre lis- franc injury level)  Ryan Clady played in all 16 games in 2014, but wasn't any where close to the same player he  once was. ( he was voted to the probowl more off reputation than ability that year). hopefully for your sake, Clady moving much better than 2014 version.

Second just because the Jet offense line was good against some bad pass defense( soft schedule) last season .   Keeping the status quo on the offense line ( only really Clady different) doesn't guarantee it will be the same against better defenses/ teams they will face this year.( tougher schedule).

without a doubt behind quarterback, the Jets offense line has to be the biggest question mark for the Jets offense.( they clearly have some serious weapons on offense , but to get the most out of their ability,  they need the Qb, and the offense line doing their part.( ineffective play from either one of those areas could take away the Jets advantage they have at the skill positions.

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How many years have fans cried about depth of the OL?  

How many teams have 3 of 4 options to start at T?  And how many blog sites know the fine details of who will emerge as a viable option before camp begins? 

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1 hour ago, Jet Nut said:

How many years have fans cried about depth of the OL?  

How many teams have 3 of 4 options to start at T?  And how many blog sites know the fine details of who will emerge as a viable option before camp begins? 

My main concern, and takeaway which the article pointed out, is that they released Ijalana, he went unsigned, and they picked him back up.  Since Qvale clearly has many issues (raw and penalty prone) and needs more seasoning it appears that Ijalana will be their go to guy.      

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38 minutes ago, LIJetsFan said:

My main concern, and takeaway which the article pointed out, is that they released Ijalana, he went unsigned, and they picked him back up.  Since Qvale clearly has many issues (raw and penalty prone) and needs more seasoning it appears that Ijalana will be their go to guy.      

 A few things can quickly change all of this though.  No one picking him up isn't surprising, he wasn't a highly sought at any time so why would anyone have a change of heart.  Not likes there's tape of him on the NFL.  Just as we don't know what Qvale is rig now.  Still, they're backups.  Why do fans think that backups should be starting quality, more really, starters for others too.  

And of course we could always pick up a better T who shakes free from another team.  Hard to worry that hard in June. Especially because for all the worry we get here this shltty OL had the AFCs leading rusher, least sacked QB and a top rushing attack. 

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This is truly the worst crime in this offseason. Mac completely f*cked up any plan  (if he actually had one to begin with) to get a top OL in the 1st round. He could have traded up to gran one of the top names or he could have selected Spriggs with some minor maneuvering in the 2nd round. Instead, he took an afterthought linebacker and a developmental QB. The QB will NOT yield any return for at least two seasons and even then probably not any at all. That was a complete WASTE of perfectly good picks, for Christ sake Lequan Treadwell was there at 20 and instead he selects this guy little twerp that was never even mentioned a on single mock.

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Sorry MJ but siteing mocks is a very weak argument. I thought all the decent OL prospects were taken before our 1st pick.  I also thought that moving up in the first was a bad idea since we were already short of draft picks this year.  

 

      

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2 hours ago, LIJetsFan said:

Sorry MJ but siteing mocks is a very weak argument. I thought all the decent OL prospects were taken before our 1st pick.  I also thought that moving up in the first was a bad idea since we were already short of draft picks this year.  

 

      

But taking Treadwell over Lee would have been a great decision at 20. So would trading down and taking Spriggs in the 2nd round or maneuvering in the 2nd round to get Spriggs. Instead, we got two players that will likely have no major impact this season. Hack will do NOTHING this season and I doubt Lee will have much of an impact either. The selection of Lee makes me think Mac had some grand plan that did not come to fruition and as a result he panicked and made a very rash decision.

I also believe moving up would not have mattered if Mac had managed to trade Mo. We would have been in great shape. The way I see it, Mac f*cked up not only the specific picks in the draft but also not trading Mo. He really bungled this draft big time and I think we are seeing the beginning of the end of Mike MacCagnan in NY.

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5 hours ago, Mainejet said:

But taking Treadwell over Lee would have been a great decision at 20. So would trading down and taking Spriggs in the 2nd round or maneuvering in the 2nd round to get Spriggs. Instead, we got two players that will likely have no major impact this season. Hack will do NOTHING this season and I doubt Lee will have much of an impact either. The selection of Lee makes me think Mac had some grand plan that did not come to fruition and as a result he panicked and made a very rash decision.

I also believe moving up would not have mattered if Mac had managed to trade Mo. We would have been in great shape. The way I see it, Mac f*cked up not only the specific picks in the draft but also not trading Mo. He really bungled this draft big time and I think we are seeing the beginning of the end of Mike MacCagnan in NY.

I thought Treadwell would have been the pick in the 1st as well but reviewing what Lee brings to the table has me jazzed over our upcoming Bowles & Co constructed defense.   I already believe that Lee's floor is higher than the likes of K Wilson or Q Coples.  Also adding Peak in the 7th was a pretty good move at WR so I'm not as down on Mac as you seem to be.  Hack, yup, he's a gamble.  On the QB front I'm still pissed we didn't go hard after Alex Smith the year he was a FA.  I suppose to some degree Woody must have been in on that decision so let's blame him :)        

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The mandate from the HC at the end of the 2015 season was to get the team faster . The GM went out and accommodated his HC by adding speed at the LBer position and at the receiver position .  Choosing Treadwell with the 1st round pick would have been a solid pick, but would not have satisfied the HC's desire for speed . For the 1st time in forever, the Jets have a GM and a HC working together to build the vision of the HC and Jet fans still complain .

With the Jets it's always something .

That is all .

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