Joe Douglas’ New York Jets offensive line rebuild is coming together
“Football is a game of wills,” he told reporters. “We’re going to try to build a team that can impose their will on other teams and to do that you have to be strong up front.”
They say actions speak louder than words, and Douglas has shown that he meant what he said. After spending first-round picks on offensive linemen in consecutive years (nabbing Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker to lock down the left side), the Jets’ line is finally showing signs of improvement.
Even without Becton – who is considered one of the better young left tackles in the entire NFL – the Jets have seen growth up front to begin the 2021 season.
Rookie left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker has improved drastically in every game this season so far. Against Atlanta in Week 5, he was the highest-graded offensive lineman in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Vera-Tucker has allowed zero pressures over the Jets’ most recent two games and looks like a future star.
Center Connor McGovern, who Douglas signed to a three-year deal in 2020, appears to be bouncing back from a disappointing debut season. He is currently graded as the league’s sixth-best center at PFF.
Tackle George Fant, who was also signed to a three-year deal by Douglas in 2020, has filled in admirably for Becton at left tackle. Fant has given up six pressures over 161 snaps in pass protection since Week 2, a rate of 3.7% that ranks seventh-best among left tackles over that span.
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The foundation is there, but the line obviously still needs work.
Right guard Greg Van Roten has been a massive liability since joining the team in 2020. He has easily been the unit’s worst player in 2021.
Fant’s run blocking has been lackluster despite his great pass protection, and he needs to show he can maintain his improvement for more than only four games. McGovern also needs to keep his success going throughout the remainder of the season to lock up a 2022 starting spot.
Right tackle Morgan Moses has been solid as a run blocker but is inconsistent in pass protection and will be a 31-year-old free agent next year.
But with two first-round picks yet again in the 2022 NFL draft, Douglas has the chance to patch the holes and finish building something truly special in Florham Park.
This year’s offensive line class is looking loaded so far. Names at the very top include Alabama tackle Evan Neal, Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, and Texas A&M tackle Kenyon Green.
There is still plenty of season left, but if the draft were to happen tonight, both of Gang Green’s first-round picks would be in the top ten (Nos. 6 and 10 overall).
Knowing Douglas’ team-building philosophy, odds would indicate that at least one of those two picks will be used on the offensive line.
There are lots of ways for the Jets to go about this offseason’s offensive line touch-up. Some fans are strong proponents for spending both picks on O-line, nabbing two of the top names. Others are more interested in going defense with one of the picks and instead focusing on signing someone like Washington’s Brandon Scherff in free agency.
Regardless of how Douglas ultimately decides to go about it, the fact of the matter is that Douglas has built a foundation that affords him the chance to put together a sturdy long-term wall in front of Zach Wilson – one that may have all-time-great potential if things break right.
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