It is no debate that the New York Jets offensive line is not that good. The last time they were a reliable unit came back in 2015 – the final year it included both D’Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle and Nick Mangold at center. Since then, it has been band-aid fill-ins and inconsistent play from whoever the Jets stuck upfront.
After watching quarterback Sam Darnold scramble his way through his first three seasons, one would expect the team to seek upgrades upfront. Except, now weeks into free agency, the topflight linemen available are gone. And now, the team stands weeks away from the 2021 NFL Draft. So, what exactly is the plan to fix the blocking upfront? Let’s break it down…
New York Jets Offensive Line Must Improve
Chemistry Being Prioritized
It is one thing to make tons of big additions on paper. It is another to actually get them to mold together into one cohesive unit. Last off-season, the Jets added the likes of right tackle George Fant, right guard Greg Van Roten, center Connor McGovern, and left tackle Mekhi Becton to join the re-signed left guard Alex Lewis. Such a turnover along the offensive line surely needs time to get on the same page.
Unfortunately, New York’s upheaval of their offensive line came during a COVID-19 altered off-season, leading to untraditional methods of camp. In other words, thanks to virtual camps, lack of a pre-season, and other factors, the group never really got on the same page prior to the season.
However, that does not excuse how long the group took to get on the same page. Becton was a bona fide star from week one, though dealt with injuries here and there. The same can be said for Fant, who after a solid start, sputtered down the stretch. Meanwhile, the interior of the line was absolutely horrendous, as rarely did the group play well at the same time. Thus, leading to the idea the group would be completely redone this off-season.
Instead, at least for the moment, Fant, Lewis, and Van Roten remain on the roster, despite being expected cap casualties entering the off-season. In other words, there is a chance they will get to make the team and prove their inconsistencies were due to the oddity of the 2020 season.
New Faces Coming Through the Draft
As previously mentioned, the top free-agent offensive linemen are off the board. The Jets did not land a Joe Thuney or a Corey Linsley. Rather, it appears the team will be turning their focus towards adding through the draft.
Luckily, the offensive linemen in the 2021 NFL Draft are very good. The Jets have five picks in the first 100, and there are plenty of tackles and interior lineman to choose from. At right tackle, the Jets could turn to Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg, Alex Leatherwood from Alabama, Jackson Carman of Clemson, or many others on day two. Or maybe they look to upgrade at guard with Wyatt Davis from Ohio State or Tennessee’s Trey Smith. There even is the possibility the Jets move McGovern to guard and select one of Landon Dickerson from Alabama or Josh Myers of Ohio State to play at center.
Maybe the Jets even take an offensive lineman with the 23rd overall pick too. Should USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker be available, the Jets must jump on arguably the best guard in the draft. The same can be said about the stud center from Oklahoma Creed Humphrey. Even at tackle, the Jets could turn to Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins or Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield to play opposite of Becton long-term.
The bottom line is that the Jets are going to be selecting multiple offensive linemen in the 2021 NFL Draft. Outside of Becton, nobody is set to be a starter beyond 2021 for New York, and the team must make a move to truly improve the offensive line. After all, they cannot have whoever is under center this season under pressure every other play.
Heavy Competition is Coming
Taking this all into consideration, it is clear that the Jets are setting up another competition-heavy training camp. With Becton holding down left tackle and McGovern likely taking a spot along the interior, three starting jobs are up for grabs. And with a new offensive scheme under Mike LaFleur, nothing is guaranteed.
Each and every player is going to get the chance to compete with Lewis, Van Roten, and Fant. The Jets added lineman Dan Feeney in free agency, who started 57 games since 2017 for the Los Angeles Chargers. There is also former mid-round draft picks Chuma Edoga and Cameron Clark who will be looking for larger roles this upcoming season.
Last Word on the New York Jets Offensive Line
No, the New York Jets did not land any of the top offensive linemen who hit the free agent market. No, the Jets are not likely to make any drastic changes prior to the draft. What the Jets are planning to do is let the youngsters earn their spots in training camp by competing for jobs against their veterans. But more importantly, it sets the Jets up for what could be their deepest offensive line unit in years for the 2021 season.
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