It isn't often that one of the most interesting players on an NFL football team turns out to be a six-year veteran right guard who has been a starter mostly by default, has never made a Pro Bowl and who many in the fan base would gladly have the New York Giants toss aside should a better option present itself. Such, though, might be the case with John Jerry in 2016.
Why? Jerry is part of the much-maligned right side of the team's offensive line, along with tackle Marshall Newhouse. That, however, is only part of the Jerry intrigue heading into 2016. We think we know what Jerry, who turns 30 today (happy birthday, JJ!), is this far into his career. He is an average to better than average pass protector, and a generally below average run blocker. All-in-all, he works out to being a perfectly average NFL starting guard. No more. No less.
Can a leopard change his spots? The fascinating question with Jerry becomes this far into his career can he still improve, can he change the type of player he is and become a better one? He set out to find out this offseason by spending two months at the O-Line Performance Center working under the guise of offensive line guru LeCharles Bentley. In an excellent post from Jordan Ranaan of NJ Advance Media, we learned that teammate Weston Richburg encouraged Jerry to do so, and also had to vouch for him.
"Best decision I ever made since I've been playing in the NFL," Jerry said. "I spent two months not just working out. I spent two months getting in a three-point stance and doing drills and doing technique things. That is something you rarely do in the offseason anywhere else that I've worked out.
"The past couple years it's mostly lifting and conditioning, not getting in stances and working on pass sets and run blocking and not giving away things whether you're on the front or back side of plays."
2015 Season in Review
Jerry began the season as a reserve guard. He ended up starting eight games, one when Justin Pugh moved out to left tackle to replace an injured Ereck Flowers, seven at right guard after Geoff Schwartz suffered yet another season-ending leg injury.
Jerry had an overall Pro Football Focus grade of -11.5 (+1.9 pass protection and -16.2 run blocking). He allowed no sacks, two quarterback hits and 12 hurries.
2016 Season Outlook
Will we see the same Jerry in 2016? Good enough to get by, but not good enough to be a guy you really consider a foundation piece on your offensive line. Or, will we see a new and improved Jerry? Here is what Bentley told Ranaan:
"John Jerry has tremendous ability inside of him," Bentley said. "That is what kept him in the league so long. But it's always just the little dots that, when they connect, sometimes a player says, 'Ah, that's what it is. That's what it is I'm trying to accomplish.' Then you've got something." ...
"You're already talking about somebody who has started 60+ games in the NFL. So we know he can play. And we know he can play at a high enough level to be an NFL starter," Bentley said. "With that being said, there has always been more left on the table.
"This year I believe will be a bit unique because I believe you will begin to see the true potential he's always had throughout his career."
So, yes, the until-now middling right guard will be a fascinating player to watch.