Sunday marked the first Sunday Night Football for the New York Jets since the “Butt Fumble” game. In what proved to be the most watched NFL game since the Super Bowl(thanks largely to the ‘Swifties’), fans anticipated a dominant performance by the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Instead, the Chiefs and Jets wound up in a competitive match-up. The Jets’ defense managed to get two interceptions against Mahomes in one of the reigning MVP’s worst games this season.
However, the biggest story was the revitalized play of Zach Wilson. After struggling to replace Aaron Rodgers, the second overall pick in 2021 had the best game of his career. Two stellar touchdown passes and a daring run for the two-point conversion allowed New York to tie the game 20-20 after a 10-0 deficit. While victory eluded them that day, it was the kind of showcase fans were desperate to see on offense.
Fans need to credit Nathaniel Hackett for adapting the playbook after the Patriots game. The tight ends (especially Jeremy Ruckert) were getting more involved on offense. Xavier Gipson had a designed run in the red zone. Allen Lazard with his first touchdown as a Jet. After all these things, what expedited the offense was the improved offensive line. In their second start in this new formation, the pass blocking looks night and day compared to the first two games. A big reason has been the team putting their faith in the new right guard, Joe Tippmann. The former Wisconsin Badger looks every bit the part of a standout offensive lineman. The potential he’s shown should allow him to enjoy a productive career.
Offensive Resurgence Thanks to This Jets’ Rookie
Before the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft, New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas needed to add to the offensive line. After acquiring four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers, Douglas could ill afford to leave him with weak pass protection. Along with creating running lanes for running back Breece Hall, Douglas recognized the fix must come in the interior.
As a result, Douglas used the 43rd overall pick to draft center Joe Tippmann from the University of Wisconsin. Tippmann was in contention with John Michael Schmitz of Minnesota for the best interior lineman prospect in the draft. Tippmann was dominant at Wisconsin. He led an offensive line with a 1,000-yard rusher every season he played, including a 2,000-yard season from Jonathan Taylor during Tippmann’s freshman season.
Tippmann looks to continue a long tradition of productive offensive linemen from Wisconsin. Over the past decade, the school has elevated young prospects into top NFL talent on the line. Among them include Tyler Biadasz, Rob Havenstein, Kevin Zeitler, and Hall of Famer Joe Thomas.
Tippmann’s impact in New York
It was a relatively quiet summer for Joe Tippmann’s first NFL training camp. The rookie predominantly worked with the New York Jets’ second string as the backup to Connor McGovern. Tippmann’s momentum took off after the Jets’ Week 2 loss against the Dallas Cowboys. An injury to left tackle Duane Brown put him on injured reserve, which forced the Jets to change their lineup going forward.
In Brown’s place, Mekhi Becton would move to left tackle with right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to right tackle. With Connor McGovern and Laken Tomlinson remaining at center and left guard respectively, that opened a starting spot at right guard. When watching the Jets face the Patriots at MetLife, the evidence became clear that Tippmann’s presence was a positive for the offense. Zach Wilson had more time to operate in the pocket compared to two weeks prior. There were opportunities for the offense to capitalize on that were there before.
The running game also benefited. The Jets had over 100 rushing yards against Kansas City on Sunday, a staggering improvement from only 38 yards against New England the week before. Through Tippmann’s first two starts, he’s allowed zero pressures through 84 pass-blocking snaps. Since Tippmann got the starting job, Zach Wilson has completed 61.3% of his passes for 402 yards, two passing touchdowns, and only one turnover.
Witnessing the development of Becton, Vera-Tucker, and now Tippmann has fans excited for the long-term outlook of the offensive line. Robert Saleh has three additional long-term building blocks on the offense outside of Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall now. If Zach Wilson can continue to produce, perhaps the Jets can sneak into the wildcard conversation after all.
Main Photo: [Kirby Lee] – USA Today Sports