George Fant, Dan Feeney, NY Jets OL, Rank, PFF
George Fant, Dan Feeney, New York Jets, Getty Images

Fans and analysts are somewhat mixed about the New York Jets’ offensive line heading into 2022. Here, we break down the reality without the hyperbole.

The New York Jets have had their fair share of offensive line struggles in the last number of years. Gone are the days of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Alan Faneca, and Damien Woody mauling opponents.

Surprisingly, the 2021 Jets’ front five was rated the 11th best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. The linemen fluctuated throughout the season, though. Mekhi Becton did not make it out of Week 1; George Fant was an above-average replacement. Greg Van Roten was replaced by Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, steadying the run game. Conor McDermott was deplorable in his two starts at left tackle, but luckily it was only two. The line did a better job in run blocking than pass blocking overall.

Heading into 2022, Joe Douglas has made some changes. Chief among them is signing Laken Tomlinson to play left guard and moving Alijah Vera-Tucker to right guard. Tomlinson is a rock-solid guard in his prime. AVT came on as the season went along. Both are Pro Bowl-level talents.

Connor McGovern is a league-average center on a top-three salary. Still, he played far better in 2021 than 2020. At minimum, he does a decent job.

The biggest questions along the starting line begin with Mekhi Becton

Becton’s knee injury, originally listed as a 4-to-6-week timeline, cost him the entire season. There were reports that Becton’s weight rose over 400 pounds. Voluntary OTAs have started, and the Jets have yet to see Becton at camp. He is still rehabbing his knee.

Robert Saleh insists that this is all fine. However, he did say in a press conference, “We’d love to have you here, buddy. We’d take care of you.” He reiterated on Wednesday that Becton looks great. Mike LaFleur emphasized in his Wednesday presser that OTAs are important.

Becton’s new fatherhood and rapport with his personal coach may be good reasons to rehab in Dallas rather than New Jersey, but his absence still causes unease among Jets nation.

Then there’s the Jets’ projected left tackle, Fant. Filling in for Becton, Fant had the best season of his career. He was the Jets’ top pass-blocker and shored up Zach Wilson‘s blindside. While the Jets say they’re leaving the left tackle spot to an open competition between Becton and Fant, Fant is the presumed favorite due to his performance last season.

Joe Douglas could have selected a top offensive tackle prospect such as Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal with the fourth overall pick in the 2022 draft. The fact that he did not and waited until the fourth round to address the offensive line leads you to assume that Becton is okay. A former offensive lineman, Douglas understands the importance of the trenches.

Rumors about Becton have flown around all offseason. Prior to the draft, some around the NFL believed that he’ll never take another snap in a Jets jersey. If that is indeed the case, then is Douglas crazy, reckless, or just ignorant?

He has proven with his offseason moves that he is none of those three.

Some have pointed to Fant’s injury history as a cause for concern. While that’s always something to worry about, last year was the first time that Fant ever played one position for almost an entire season. Versatility is an asset for backup offensive linemen, but continuity at a specific position builds consistent starter success.

The Jets’ two backup tackles last year, Conor McDermott and Chuma Edoga, were underwhelming. The team drafted Max Mitchell in the fourth round as a swing tackle, but he is not ready for a starting role. The Jets like his upside, but they drafted him as a prospect, not an immediate contributor.

On the interior, the Jets have fan-favorite Dan Feeney and guard Nate Herbig, who posted a 68.1 Pro Football Focus grade in 481 snaps for the Eagles last year. That is far from terrible for a backup lineman. These are the main insurance pieces.

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Admittedly, the Jets’ offensive line will be tested early and often

Myles Garrett, Trey Hendrickson, T.J. Watt, Preston Smith, Matthew Judon, Danielle Hunter, Von Miller, and Randy Gregory are on the slate in the first 10 weeks of the season.

Still, to call the Jets a last-place team due to their lack of line depth, as one former team scout did, is an exaggeration. They are in far better shape than last year with their 11th-ranked line. This line can be a top-10 unit.

Yes, health may be a concern, but Douglas could not fix all the team’s holes overnight. Perhaps he could have invested a pick higher than 111 on a backup tackle, but he saw opportunities to improve in other areas and grabbed them.

People wonder why Douglas took a tight end in the third round when he signed two in the offseason. But if we’re discussing injuries and depth, C.J. Uzomah has been injury-prone throughout his career. Jets fans know how important the tight end position is in Mike LaFleur’s offense. Just look at what the lack of adequate TEs did to the team last season.

Let’s not discount the tight ends in the blocking game, either. Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert, in particular, are strong blockers. Conklin is a sneaky-good pass blocker, which can help the Jets in the play-action game.

Conclusion: The Jets’ blocking depth is not that bad

No, the Jets don’t have LDT and Morgan Moses to come out of the woodwork and pick up the slack. There is still the possibility that a lineman becomes available on the cheap to shore up their depth, but the Jets are pretty happy with their room overall.

Could the worst happen? It always can. Those are the breaks of an NFL season. Injury luck needs to come together for a team to compete.

For once, though, if things roll the Jets’ way, the trenches on the offensive side could actually be a strength instead of a glaring weakness!

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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BigJetsFan1
BigJetsFan1
5 months ago

Great article. After receiver, my favorite position unit to watch is the O line. Its been a while since I saw good things. I am hoping for another Morgan Moses type pickup after cuts. Maybe we can trade with the Chiefs again for a lineman!! I am soo looking forward to training camp and the pre-season. If our line is good, Zach can bloom.

JetOrange
JetOrange
5 months ago

Have a concern that Herbig has enough athletic ability for this Offense, at 334 pounds doesn’t seem to be an ideal fit. Second year in the system, Feeney came on at the end of the year and looked okay, but remember he re-signed for less this year, not a great endorsement from Douglas. Last year for Edoga, was hurt most of last year, this Offense is ideal for his skill set, he is running out of time. Unrealistic hope. Carrying 9 Offensive Lineman , tough to carry 10

JetOrange
JetOrange
5 months ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

We will find out in Training Camp. I am in an extreme minority that believes that Edoga could be the swing Tackle, McDermott is such an absolute disaster on the Left side, don’t believe he is eligible for swing.Last year the Jets brought in two UNDFA ‘s in Parker who spent the year on IR, and Hermann who spent the year on the On the Practice Squad. Hermann showed some promise in TC. A year in the Strength & Conditioning Program could make a difference, and give the Jets a viable candidate.

Jets71
Jets71
5 months ago

There’s a narrative that Fant didn’t face any prime time pass rushers last season which contributed to his excellent play at LT. I’m not sure if it’s that or if he’s coming into his own after getting a late start to his football career. Becton is an enigma at this point. He has shown ability to be a top LT and lack of desire that could turn him into a bust. After what I’ve seen from Douglas I have trust in him and believe he’s got some plans to grab some insurance in one way or another. I do believe there may be a trade or 2, to be made before the season begins, and I see a late signing or two. OL for sure, perhaps a LB and/or Safety all come to mind. As you pointed out the depth in the middle of the line is decent it’s the outside that has us all worried. Personal note, it appears you’re new to this page, I think you’re an excellent writer, even if I don’t like stories about any Jet’s units being dominant. Haha.

Azuma76
Azuma76
5 months ago

If the Jets were smart they should start Becton on the left with Tomlinson next to him and Fant on the right with AVT. Fant played well next to AVT so if its not broke you don’t have to fix it. Becton will learn more next to Tomlinson

Azuma76
Azuma76
5 months ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

Still think that Becton would be good next to Tomlinson and if Zach takes off and runs he does it more to his right side, so having a strong right side is beneficial as well.

Azuma76
Azuma76
5 months ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

He will show up, its not a big deal right now because its voluntary. When he does show up I have faith that he will play. I say throw him back to wolves on Carl Lawson side on the left and let him sharpen him up some more! 😂