To say this season has been a failure for the New York Jets would be an understatement. Hopes for Super Bowl aspirations faded quickly, and fans are searching for mock drafts again. Their latest losing streak has placed New York in prime territory for a premier offensive talent. At 4-8, New York is closing in on a top-five draft pick this year. While everyone has rightfully been frustrated with the quarterback play after Rodgers got hurt, there are more pressing matters. If New York wants any opportunity at postseason success, the offensive line must be priority number one. Throwing out a 40-year-old Aaron Rodgers coming off a torn Achilles without “Jumbo Jets” protecting him would be a recipe for disaster because the offensive line is key for New York’s success.
This was evident when the team thought a 38-year-old Duane Brown would make for an efficient left tackle. There are some talented players in the trenches but they lack consistency. The Jets have used eight different offensive line combinations but given up over 50 sacks. That kind of production is unacceptable, especially when it’s wasting a remarkable defense. The New York Jets have at most a two-year window to win with Aaron Rodgers. There must be upgrades made at the tackle position to improve.
Jumbo Jets: Offensive Line Key for New York Success
The Jets aspired to have a competent offense to pair with their talented defense this season. Unfortunately, various injuries and terrible quarterback play have fans longing for Adam Gase again. The Zach Wilson era is reaching its finale after three seasons since being picked second overall. Allen Lazard has had a forgettable first season in New York. Nathaniel Hackett’s play calling has fans realizing he was fired in Denver for a reason. However, outside those three there’s a greater threat for the Jets, and it’s their offensive line.
Injuries have been the main culprit for this downfall. Alijah Vera-Tucker was lost for the season against Denver. Becton, McGovern, Brown, Mitchell, Tippmann, Schweitzer, and others all spent time hurt. Relying on a third-string center against the Giants is not a recipe for success. Coincidentally, it’s proven to be detrimental to the team. Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t an upside.
Diamonds in the rough
While this has been a weakness, the return of Aaron Rodgers will help this group expeditiously. Stability at the quarterback position is an offensive line’s best friend. Despite the poor play this season, there is optimism for this core’s future. When healthy, Alijah Vera-Tucker has proven to be a valuable guard. Mekhi Becton has stepped up in multiple roles at both left and right tackle. Connor McGovern was playing solid football til his knee injury. Rookie Joe Tippmann flashed the upside that made him a second-round pick this season. In addition, Laken Tomlinson has been playing arguably his best football since signing with New York. A healthy Vera-Tucker with McGovern, Tippmann, and Tomlinson is solid depth inside the line. Retaining Mekhi Becton can likely have him starting at right tackle next year. If Joe Douglas is retained, then he must secure a long-term left tackle this off-season.
Joe Tippmann allowed 0 pressures on 42 pass blocking snaps. pic.twitter.com/C8rtPdWmF4
— JetCast (@JetCastPod) December 4, 2023
Left Tackle options: NFL free agency
This off-season will be limited to offensive tackle upgrades. Outside of Becton, the only serviceable options are Jonah Williams and Tyron Smith. In addition, Donovan Smith will also be available; however, his history of false start penalties makes this a non-option. For depth, a reunion with George Fant makes sense. Fant spent 2021 in New York during Saleh’s first season before signing with Baltimore. But, he’d make for a better swing tackle and veteran presence than starting.
Ideally, this is where the team’s desires should lie. The quarterbacks are rightfully the talk of the first round, but there are so many offensive options for teams to improve. Projected at sixth overall, New York will have the opportunity to pick a game-changer on offense. The big fish of this tackle class is Olu Fashanu out of Penn State. Standing at 6’6″ and 317 lbs, Olu has emerged as a franchise tackle at just 20 years old. In his third season as a starter, Olu was named the Rimmington-Pace award for best offensive lineman in the Big 10.
Olu Fashanu is expected to be drafted before the fifth pick, but New York still has options. Joe Alt out of Notre Dame is another phenom. The son of former All-Pro tackle John Alt, Joe has the opportunity for a long career. At 6’8″ and 322 lbs, Alt has the kind of size scouts dream about. Alt started as a true freshman in 2021 and followed that up with first-team All-American honors in 2022. You’d expect Aaron Rodgers would feel pretty confident with him protecting his blindside next year.
— Jets Today (@NYJetsToday_) November 25, 2023
But, what if both are picked before New York can select? If both are unavailable, New York can still improve their offensive line in the first round. Two immediate options would be JC Lantham out of Alabama and Taliese Fuaga out of Oregon State. Both will be sought after however, both are projected to be long-term right tackles. This means that the Jets will likely shift Becton to left tackle full-time.
Main Photo: [Vincent Carchietta] – USA Today Sports