If you think Aaron Rodgers will win a Super Bowl with the Jets this year, your argument might go something like this: a four-time MVP QB inherits a better supporting cast, including an elite defense that was a QB away from title contention.
New York had a top-five scoring defense in 2022, something Rodgers hasn't had since he won his only title in 2010. And now, as a bonus, he's got one of the most explosive running backs in the league, with Dalvin Cook joining the Jets during the preseason.
There's a flip side to this coin, though. The argument for why they won't win a title could go like this: Rodgers is going from one of the best offensive lines in football to one of the worst.
New York ranked third worst in Pro Football Focus' pass block grade last season, while the Packers were third best. Rodgers' line has actually ranked in the top half of the NFL in pass blocking by PFF in 13 straight seasons.
Packers PFF pass block ranks in Aaron Rodgers era
The Jets' bad offensive line is not what Rodgers is accustomed to, and it isn't a formula for a title-winning season. The last seven Super Bowl champions had an OL ranked in the top half of the league in that department.
The Jets are hoping to follow the Buccaneers' and Rams' blueprint, who won Super Bowls in their first seasons after acquiring Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford, respectively. Well, the Buccaneers offensive line took a step forward after drafting Tristan Wirfs 13th overall in 2020, and the Rams had the best rated O-line in the entire league in 2021.
PFF pass block ranks among last seven Super Bowl champions
Here's what going from the third-best to third-worst pass blocking unit boils down to: Jets QBs were pressured 88 more times than Rodgers last season. It's hard to imagine the Jets reaching their goals in 2023 if Rodgers is going to take on anything in the ballpark of 88 more pressures. That's like Rodgers playing two additional games where he's pressured on every single dropback.
Rodgers isn't getting any younger or fleet of foot. He turns 40 in December, and his performance against pressure has been getting worse over the past two seasons. During that span, he is third-best in EPA per play when not pressured but 25th when he is pressured. That's a Jekyll-and-Hyde act equivalent to going from Josh Allen to Mac Jones.
Aaron Rodgers past two seasons
Yards per attempt
EPA per play rank
If the Jets offensive line is going to make the significant improvements required to win their first Super Bowl in 55 years, it'll be because they receive contributions from former first-round picks Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Vera-Tucker was above average in 2022 while playing RG, LT and RT, but only played seven games after suffering a torn triceps. His replacement at RG, Nate Herbig, was below average last season, ranking 51st among 77 qualifiers at guard.
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But can they stay healthy? Becton and Vera-Tucker have played only 2% of the team's offensive snaps together in the past two seasons.
The other path to improvement is the addition of rookies Joe Tippmann (second-round pick) and Carter Warren (fourth-round pick). I would be more optimistic if the Jets had landed an offensive lineman in the first round, but they just missed out on the run of offensive tackles, which could have helped fill a big void at right tackle. Again, think of the impact Wirfs had on the Buccaneers when they won a Super Bowl in his rookie year.
Jets offensive line depth chart (with PFF rank in last qualified season)
Mekhi Becton (27th)
Duane Brown (69th)
Carter Warren (rookie)
Laken Tomlinson (58th)
Wes Schweitzer (27th)
Connor McGovern (10th)
Joe Tippman (rookie)
Alijah Vera-Tucker (16th)
Trystan Colon-Castillo (N/A)
Max Mitchell (71st)
Billy Turner (70th)
Bottom line, the stars need to align for the Jets to take flight. They need Becton and Vera-Tucker healthy, Becton to play like he did in 2020, and contributions from two rookies. That's a lot to ask. I expect the offensive line to be better, but still average at best.
It's only June, so a lot can happen between now and February. The Jets' ability to protect Rodgers bears watching and should be one of the biggest question marks of the 2023 season.