Last season, the New York Jets interior offensive lineman were far from perfect. Essentially, the inconsistent play of the group had fans worried on a weekly basis. Will they flop in pass or run blocking this week? Might the quarterback get some time to throw the ball this week? Could they finally block for a run play of over 10 yards?
In other words, the Jets interior offensive lineman was not very good in 2021. Taking note of this, General Manager Joe Douglas had a plan. Rather than overpaying on the market, he took advantage of the in-house talent… as well as a big trade for a solution.
Here is how the Jets interior offensive lineman unit shapes up for the 2021 season…
2021 New York Jets Preview: Interior Offensive Lineman
The Starters: Alijah Vera-Tucker (LG), Connor McGovern (C), Greg Van Roten (RG)
What is not to like about Alijah Vera-Tucker? The major addition to the interior is set to form a terrifying duo on the left side with Mekhi Becton. Taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after Gang Green traded back up for him, Vera-Tucker will be a starter – and a good one, right out of the gate.
Standing at 6’5” and 308-pounds, Vera-Tucker was widely considered the best interior offensive lineman in the draft. The former USC stud is an agile blocker who can do more than simply hold his own in pass protection. He is an immediate upgrade to the line and will make an impact early.
With Vera-Tucker holding one side, maybe Connor McGovern will improve in his second year wearing Gotham green. McGovern was arguably the Jets prized signing last off-season and struggled throughout the first half of 2020. Yes, his performance improved down the stretch, but he remained a liability as a pass blocker. Hopefully, Vera-Tucker’s presence will benefit McGovern.
Lastly, the battle at right guard will be among the most intriguing training camp battles. For now, it is safe to assume Greg Van Roten, the Jets 2020 starter, may have the upper hand. In his first year with the Jets he was solid but did not do anything to separate himself from the competition.
Obviously, one can never bank on the performance of a rookie. So, what happens in the worst-case scenario of Vera-Tucker struggling to adapt to the pro game? Or if McGovern does not bounce back? Maybe the right guard situation is never sorted out and winds up being a constant rotation. When it comes to this group, this unit has a “see it to believe it” mentality from the fan base in regard to their ability to protect rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
The Backups: Alex Lewis (OG), Dan Feeney (IOL)
When looking at this unit, one thing pops out – depth. Douglas has done an excellent job at filling out the second unit with experience, starting with Alex Lewis and Dan Feeney.
Lewis returns to the Jets after restructuring his contract earlier this off-season. Their 2020 starting left guard can play both guard spots and will be competing against Van Roten for the right guard job. With 21 of 24 games started for the Jets since 2019, having his experience is huge for Gang Green.
The same can be said about Dan Feeney, who comes to New York from the Los Angeles Chargers. A third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Feeney started 57 of 63 games as a Charger. With the ability to play guard and center, Feeney gives offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur a versatile player along the inside. He never blew anyone away with his play in Los Angeles, but now that he has been relegated to the bench, he could come up big in situational playtime.
The Bubble: Cameron Clark (OG), Corey Levin (OG), Jimmy Murray (C), Tristen Hoge (OG)
After the top five blockers, there is a full-blown competition. Cameron Clark stands as the wild card entering year two. A fourth-round pick in 2020, Clark never saw the field, and now may need to fight to make the 53-man roster. After missing a full year to injury, he is ready to show what he’s got, and he will get the opportunity to compete for the starting right guard spot too.
For Corey Levin and Jimmy Murray, it comes down to getting a chance to play. Levin, 26, is now on his fourth NFL team. A versatile lineman who can play every position along the front, Levin would be a great depth piece to have if he can prove he belongs. The same goes for Murray. The 26-year-old has been in the Jets organization since 2019 but has yet to see the field. A good athlete, Murray has a chance to earn the backup center job if Feeney is viewed primarily as a guard.
Then there is Zach Wilson’s BYU teammate Tristen Hoge. A multi-year starter for the Cougars, Hoge may not be an athlete necessarily, rather a smart player with good technique. He is a sleeper candidate to make the back end of the roster with a strong camp, or at least remain with the team on the practice squad.
Final Interior Offensive Line Analysis
Without a doubt, these interior offensive linemen can give the Jets their best group in years if all goes as planned. There is experience, depth, and upside here to capitalize on. It is only a matter of if the coaching staff helping them piece it all together.
Stay tuned for the next article in the 2021 New York Jets Preview series with the interior defensive line!
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images