Filling in for AJ Cann, second-year offensive lineman Ben Bartch got his first start of the 2021 season at right guard against the Titans in week five. Because AJ Cann has an expiring contract, there's a decent chance that Bartch will enter the starting lineup full time in 2022 if he's able to play well and show growth this year.
With that in mind, I'm going to keep a close eye on Bartch throughout the rest of his starts in 2021.
Ben Bartch played tackle in college, and it's easy to see why. From a physical standpoint, there are no limitations in his game. Against a Titans' front that features Jeffery Simmons, Bartch showed strength at the point of attack and more than enough athleticism and nastiness to make an impact getting out on the move in the run game.
Now, it wasn't a perfect performance for Bartch, but it was pretty damn good for a young man going up against one of the freakiest 3-4 defensive ends in the game today.
In total, Bartch played all 71 offensive snaps. He had an overall positive impact in the running game and allowed three pressures on 43 pass-blocking snaps.
On Trevor Lawrence's first drop back of the day, Bartch was overwhelmed by Simmons' quick get-off and power. He tried to force Simmons to the left of the quarterback, but it was too late. Simmons quickly got to Lawrence, who still got the pass off, but it appeared Simmons' helmet hit his hand, forcing the ball to wobble out and fall incomplete. Even though this wasn't Bartch's first snap in the regular season, or against Jeffery Simmons for that matter, it was still a bit of a "welcome to the NFL" moment for the young guard.
But he settled in nicely. The only Titans' defender that gave Bartch any trouble throughout the contest was Simmons. But after that first drop back, Bartch held his own against the mammoth defensive end. Simmons produced two more pressures in one-on-ones with Bartch, but they didn't negatively impact Trevor Lawrence. On the second pressure, Simmons' power once again got the best of Bartch, but Bartch anchored and pushed Simmons away from the quarterback. On the third, Bartch was again able to recover after a rough start to the rep.
Bartch created push in the run game. He played with strong leverage and drove linemen, including Jeffery Simmons, off the ball. Even more impressive, Bartch was a natural pulling to the edges and getting to the second level of the defense. And when he did make his way to linebackers and second-level defenders, he punished them, driving them backward into the dirt.
On the now infamous Carlos Hyde fourth and goal play, the Jaguars' interior offensive line cratered. The first defender to break through was lined up in the B-gap, in between Bartch and offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor. I'm not sure whose responsibility it was, but Bartch attacked the defender lined up over center while Taylor went for the outside leverage defender, allowing Teair Tart to shoot the gap and blow up the play in the backfield. Moving forward, the Jags will need to make sure they know their responsibilities in these critical situations.
Despite a couple of mental errors and lost reps to Jeffery Simmons, Ben Bartch played very well for a young, inexperienced lineman from a small school. Out of 71 snaps, Bartch probably won 65 of them. And on every pass-pro snap against someone not named Jeffery Simmons, Bartch looked like a seasoned vet, taking care of business with ease. He showed power, athleticism, and active feet. I love his mean streak. He's looking to bury linebackers and safeties when he's on the move. And he loves to chip in on double teams, where he's able to use his strong punch to help knock defenders off balance.
Bartch won't face anyone quite as imposing as Jeffery Simmons in week six against the Dolphins, so if he brings the same level of effort and focus in London, Bartch should have a fine showing.
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