There is no more important unit on the field than the offensive line.
This is where the game is won or lost.
When looking at the Jets offensive line, the starters and the reserves, what kind of offensive line has team General Manager Joe Douglas built?
While Douglas did select offensive tackle Mekhi Becton and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first-round of the 2020 and 2021 NFL Draft respectively, he has done nothing else to infuse the line with high-round talent in the draft.
In free agency, Douglas invested $40 million dollars in guard Laken Tomlinson, $27.3 million in tackle George Fant and $27 million in center Connor McGovern.
The main concern is this: have you looked at New York’s offensive line depth chart (see here on espn.com)?
All five of the Jets’ backups and two of the listed third or fourth stringers are entering the final year of their contracts.
Where does that leave the offensive line in 2023?
Another growing concern with the reserve linemen is 4/5 of the backups are on their second NFL team, and 2/5 third and fourth stringers are on their third NFL team.
Why is that significant to know?
It points to the Jets shortcomings to identify, prioritize and develop their own talent.
Out of the 10 backups listed, all but one of them is paid at minimal levels.
Little investment has been made in the reserves.
Only backup center, Dan Feeney, is scheduled to count $3 million towards the team’s salary cap in 2022.
Fant and Becton are both coming off knee surgeries. Plus, neither has much time left on their contracts.
Becton is not scheduled to be a free agent until 2024, however many worry about him as he has missed 18/33 games since being drafted.
Boomer Esiason recently stated: “Looking at him [Becton] in his clothes opposed to on a football field, this guy is approaching 400 pounds.”
If that is true, from a scouting perspective, Becton would have increased difficulty with endurance, and with his lateral foot speed in pass protection.
Fant will be 30 years old on opening day and he had the best year of his career in 2021.
Fant is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
On game-film, Fant is a border-line starter/back-up (Grade: B-) who is susceptible to being beat through the front and back-doors of the pocket, and the Jets had to scheme to help him too often.
This is likely the reason Douglas has yet to extend him.
Last season, Zach Wilson was the third-most sacked quarterback in the league (44 sacks). God forbid any of the starters go down, where will that leave the Jets?
It would leave them with a combined 10 starts backing up the left side of the line, and 29 combined starts backing up the right side.
- LT Conor McDermott, 6 starts
- LG Dru Samia, 4 starts
- RG Nate Herbig, 17 starts
- RT Chuma Edoga, 12 starts
None of the listed third or fourth stringers have ever started a game (Max Mitchell, Greg Senat, Ross Pierschbacher, Parker Ferguson and Grant Hermanns).
New York’s overall offensive production did show improvement in 2021 compared to 2020.
In 2021, the Jets’ offense averaged 306.4 yards per game (No. 26), which was an improvement from the 279.9 yards per game they averaged (No. 32) in 2020.
Douglas added several high profile draft picks in this past draft, however he waited to address the offensive line until the fourth round (Mitchell). Despite the unknown situation at offensive tackle, despite Wilson being injured and coming up visibly hobbling two other times, Douglas waited until the fourth round.
Douglas has in fact only used 4/25 draft picks on the offensive line in his three drafts with New York. 2020 fourth-round tackle Cameron Clark had to end his career due to the risk of paralysis.
Becton is struggling with injures and his weight.
Was the pre-draft risk investigative work done properly on both by Douglas?
Clark’s injury was a freak accident that nobody could have predicted.
However, shortly after Becton was selected, it was reported that Becton was 389 pounds in January of 2019 when he was still at Louisville.
How will it all turn out for this offensive line?
We’ll soon find out.
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