After going through a couple of free agent center options that could intrigue the Jets, we stay along the interior offensive line with the top left guard set to hit the open market — New England’s Joe Thuney.
Born: November 19, 1992 (Age: 27.2)
Hometown: Centerville, Ohio
High School: Archbishop Alter (OH)
College: North Carolina State
Draft: R3, 78th overall by New England Patriots in 2016
Free Agent Type: Unrestricted
2019 Cap Hit: $2.2M (4th year of rookie contract) — #48 among guards
Comparable free agent guard deals:
- Andrew Norwell (2018, age 26, CAR to JAX): 5 years, $66.5 million (1st among left guards), $30 million guaranteed (1st), $13.3 million average annual value (1st)
- Rodger Saffold (2019, age 31, LAR to TEN): 4 years, $44 million (4th among left guards), $22.5 million guaranteed (5th), $11 million average annual value (2nd)
Since being taken in the third round of the 2016 Draft, Thuney has started at left guard for all 74 of New England’s regular season and playoff games. He has logged 5,279 snaps in his career, grinding out at least 1,201 in each season.
Thuney has developed into an absolute stud for the Patriots. Seen below are his regular season Pro Football Focus ranks in each season, among guards with at least 600 snaps.
- 2019 (out of 60): 3rd pass, 15th run, 4th overall
- 2018 (out of 56): 3rd pass, 14th run, 12th overall
- 2017 (out of 62): 27th pass, 16th run, 13th overall
- 2016 (out of 61): 47th pass, 40th run, 48th overall
As made evident above, pass protection is where Thuney really shines. In 2018, he ranked 11th out of 61 qualified guards in pass-blocking efficiency (per-snap pressure rate with greater weight to sacks), yielding 23 pressures (zero sacks) over 598 snaps in protection. He shot up the leaderboard in 2019, ranking third out of 68 qualified guards in pass-blocking efficiency with a mere 16 pressures allowed (including one sack) over 648 snaps.
New England had some troubles up front in 2019, but Thuney was not part of the issue. Check out this dominant rep in pass protection. Thuney (#62) holds up for about 6.6 seconds, which is an eternity in football time (about 164% longer than the approximate league average snap-to-throw time of 2.55 seconds). That gives Tom Brady enough time to find N’Keal Harry for a seven-yard touchdown.
Thuney is dominant out in space, largely a product of his elite athleticism.
However, while it certainly raises a player’s potential as a blocker in space, athleticism on its own does not guarantee success on the move. Quick jumps off the ball, good timing arriving at the spot, accurate positioning, and finishing ability are all crucial skills.
Thuney displays many of those traits on the following play, as he leads James White to a 23-yard touchdown off of a screen pass. When you combine top-notch agility with great technique, you get blocks like this.
Ted Karras does a nice job there as well, throwing two key blocks to pave the road for White.
Thuney’s mobility makes things happen on the ground as well. Watch here as he pancakes the linebacker all the way out near the sideline, seven yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Thuney is as good as it gets at avoiding penalties. In 2019, he was not penalized a single time, joining Marshal Yanda as the only qualified guards with that distinction. In 2018, he was called for just four penalties, which tied him for the 26th-most among guards despite playing the third-most snaps (1,120). In 2017, he tied for 32nd with three penalties while playing the second-most snaps (1,134). To sum it up, over the past three seasons, Thuney has on average ranked second among guards in snaps played and 39th in penalties.
Should the Jets pursue?
As I explained with Karras, at least a slight bit of skepticism should be applied when considering the possibility of adding New England linemen. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has been getting it done over there for a long time. The Patriots always find a way to make it work, regardless of injuries or talent level. It can be risky to expect a Patriots lineman to perform similarly well outside of the fruitful New England environment.
However, Thuney seems to be great enough of a player to where you can feel confident that his productivity will carry over to a new organization. He has been a starter from day one and has held that role down over each and every game since, steadily improving into one of the best guards in football. Thuney is right up there with Brandon Scherff and Jack Conklin in the A-tier of free agent targets for the Jets.
Interesting fact on Thuney: he was born in Centerville, Ohio, and attended Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio. He is not the first NFL lineman to come into the league having been born in Centerville and graduated from Archbishop Alter. You may be familiar with the other.
Get to recruiting, Nick!