Is it time for the New York Jets to hold Laken Tomlinson accountable?
In search of sparks, the New York Jets have not been afraid to make bold changes to their offensive depth chart in 2022. They have benched Zach Wilson twice, benched Braxton Berrios, buried Joe Flacco on the depth chart, benched James Robinson for Zonovan Knight, swapped the roles of Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore, and had Alijah Vera-Tucker play four different positions on the offensive line.
Now, it might be time for one more bold move.
Should the Jets bench Laken Tomlinson?
Robert Saleh and the Jets’ coaching staff have done a nice job of holding players accountable based on their performance. I already mentioned a few examples above. Whether it’s the quarterback they drafted second overall or the running back they traded for only a few weeks prior, the Jets have shown they are willing to put feelings aside and make changes that increase the team’s chances of winning.
So, why should Tomlinson be immune?
Tomlinson has been having a wildly disappointing season ever since the Jets kicked off against the Ravens in Week 1. He appears to be healthy and in good physical condition, but has a shocking propensity for committing errors related to recognition, awareness, technique, and fundamentals. It is puzzling to watch from an eighth-year veteran who has extensive experience in this scheme.
Yes, Tomlinson signed a three-year, $40 million deal with $27 million guaranteed.
Why should that matter?
The Jets are fighting for their playoff lives. It will be tough to survive with a left guard who constantly allows free shots on the quarterback.
The Jets can figure out what to do with Tomlinson in the offseason. Perhaps they decide to stick it out and see if he can turn things around in 2023 – after all, it will not be cheap to get rid of him ($8.52 million dead money).
But at this moment in time, Tomlinson is a proven liability and the Jets should make a change. If you can bench Zach Wilson twice, you can bench Laken Tomlinson.
The Jets traded for Duvernay-Tardif midway through the 2021 season, and he ended up starting seven games for them at right guard. It was a respectable stint for the former Chief. He looked like a smooth fit in the scheme and helped the offensive line improve down the stretch. Duvernay-Tardif was good enough to where many Jets fans wanted to bring him back as the starting right guard in 2022.
Instead, Duvernay-Tardif – who was a free agent – returned to his homeland of Canada to continue pursuing his medical career. He remained unsigned throughout the offseason until the Jets brought him back to their practice squad on November 18.
Duvernay-Tardif was promoted to the active roster on December 7. At this point, he has been with the team for well over a month and should be ready to jump into action.
Duvernay-Tardif has never played left guard in his NFL career, so if he were to join the starting lineup, it would probably have to be at right guard. It’s a position currently held by Herbig – who has been struggling just as much as Tomlinson recently. However, Herbig’s first few games of the year were solid, and that is enough to make his body of work better than Tomlinson’s.
Herbig played over 300 snaps at left guard during his career in Philadelphia and also played 57 snaps at left guard for the Jets in this year’s preseason, so he is capable of manning that spot. I would put Duvernay-Tardif in at right guard and slide Herbig to left guard while making room for Tomlinson on the bench.
The main counterargument against this move is the chemistry aspect. We talk all the time about how important it is for an offensive line to have chemistry. Making this drastic shift with two games left would surely not help in accomplishing that goal, especially when the Jets’ offensive line has finally been sending out the same unit on a weekly basis for a few games now.
But… that same unit has been bad. What good is chemistry if the unit stinks? And it’s not as if we have seen any chemistry between these five guys anyway. I doubt their chemistry is going to get any better over two measly games to close out a season.
Plus, the chemistry aspect is part of the appeal of putting Duvernay-Tardif at right guard. He played beside Connor McGovern last season and was teammates with George Fant (though Fant was playing LT), so there is already some established chemistry there.
It is entirely possible the Jets could bench Tomlinson and get the same disastrous results from their offensive line with him watching from the sidelines. But I can assure you this: There is no way things can get worse with Tomlinson on the bench.