During Jets Week, Inside The Pylon posited that New York’s run defense might be the best in the league, making it a tough night for the Patriots run game. Rex Ryan’s men delivered on that proclamation Thursday night, holding the Patriots to 63 yards on 15 carries. However New England ran the ball to the left edge 7 times for 40 yards, a 5.7 average (left edge being defined as runs to left side). While we predicted that New England might have success on runs to the left, this was a stark contrast to what the Patriots accomplished on runs to the rest of the field (8 carries for 23 yards). While trying to unpack this we found ourselves trying to answer one question: Is Jordan Devey a good run blocker?
Off on the Right Foot
Devey was matched up on Sheldon Richardson for much of Thursday evening and on this first occasion, the young guard got the better of his opponent with the use of a strong initial step. Following an incomplete pass to Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots face 2nd and 10 on the Jets’ 30-yard line. Tom Brady is under center with Jonas Gray at singleback as New England utilizes 12 personnel. New York has their nickel package on the field with Richardson in a 2-technique alignment to Devey’s outside shoulder:
The Patriots run Gray to the left end. Off of the snap, Devey fires his left foot to the sideline as he moves forward. Notice how the relationship between his helmet and Richardson’s has changed. Devey now has his helmet to the outside of Richardson’s and has gained leverage to the play-side:
The guard then continues his blocking action and uses strength– and perhaps a slight hold – to control the big defensive tackle and eliminate him from the play:
While the guard’s helmet is back to Richardson’s left shoulder, Devey’s effort to gain leverage initially has paid off. He is able to secure the block and while his helmet is back to the inside, he has sealed Richardson off from the play. The running back hits the hole with speed and accelerates forward for a 5-yard gain:
However, on this next play, Gray is prevented from a big gain when Devey fails to finish the task at hand. On 1st and 10, New England will try running the rookie to the left side. The Patriots have 21 personnel with Gray lined up behind fullback James Develin in the backfield. The Jets have their base 3-4 defense on the field and Richardson is now in a 3-technique outside Devey:
Develin looks to lead his halfback to the left edge on this play, but Richardson prevents the attempt. Off the snap, the defensive tackle beats Devey to the outside leverage:
Richardson’s effort clogs the edge and forces Gray to look for an inside lane to cut into:
But the big defensive tackle has not finished his work yet and he sticks his massive left arm to the inside to grab ahold of Gray’s jersey:
Executing a block in this situation is a difficult task for Devey, given the alignment of the defensive tackle. Richardson is positioned wider towards the sideline, making Devey’s task of gaining outside leverage a monumental assignment. However, even after failing to secure that leverage, Devey still needs to finish the established block on the defender and make sure Richardson is sealed off from the cutback lane. In this instance, Devey fails on both counts.
New England’s longest run of the night was this 17-yard carry by Shane Vereen in the 2nd quarter. While the run looks nice on the stat sheet, the film is an example of another missed opportunity. Brady is under center and the Patriots have their 12 personnel on the field. The Jets deploy nickel personnel, and the matchup to watch on this run is between Devey and linebacker David Harris (#52), who aligns in the B gap just to the outside of Devey’s left shoulder:
As this stretch run to the left unfolds, the guard fires out of his stance to meet the threat of the charging linebacker. Devey is initially in good position to execute a timely block for his running back:
But the young guard lunges and delivers a mere glancing blow as Harris remains upright:
The linebacker’s athletic display of balance forces Vereen to bounce his run to the outside, delaying his course into the secondary. Notice that in the defensive backfield, Julian Edelman is in great position to execute a downfield block:
The video sequence provides a clear view of just how close this came to being a very big play:
While Vereen picks up significant yardage and a first down, that slight hesitation forced by Harris is the difference between a nice 17-yard gain and a potentially huge run. With Edelman getting his defender to the turf and Brandon LaFell‘s solid blocking along the sideline, there is a window here for a major play. But with Devey lunging and missing at the outside, we are left to wonder if Vereen could have headed for the sun.
If this play is any indication, Jordan Devey is a man who learns from errors of his ways. In the 3rd quarter, Devey is again tasked with blocking Harris on a Shane Vereen carry:
David Harris is not blowing this play up. The linebacker is overpowered by the young lineman, and with that big shove at the whistle, it appears Devey may have been bit angry after missing Harris on the earlier block.
The answer to the question posed in the introduction is: not yet. Devey turned in a below average performance in run blocking based on a review of the tape. When matched up against Sheldon Richardson he struggled to handle the big defensive tackle on a number of plays, and allowed him to make a few tackles when the guard failed to properly execute his block and/or play to the whistle. However, we were most impressed with what he did on the last play analyzed, applying the lesson of an earlier failure and delivering a crushing block on David Harris. Devey is an inexperienced player still learning to adjust to the NFL’s speed. With continued determination and aggression, such as he displayed in the final example, he may establish himself as valuable asset for New England’s offensive line.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.