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Training camp 2023: Predicting the NY Jets’ starting O-Line

Mekhi Becton, NY Jets, Trade, Rumors
Mekhi Becton, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ starting offensive line is one of the most interesting units to watch in training camp

In just under a week, the New York Jets will be reporting to training camp. There is a ton of excitement around the team, which has only been amplified by the recent extension given to defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

With training camp comes storylines, and the Jets should have a decent amount surrounding them. Out of these potential storylines, the matter in which the offensive line will shake out is one of the most intriguing and interesting. Between the new talent added and the question marks among the veterans, most of the discussion around the Jets could revolve around this unit.

Considering how important the Jets’ offensive line will be this season, I decided to try to predict the team’s starting offensive line heading into the regular season. Many things can change during training camp, but this is how I see the positions shaking out.

Left tackle: Duane Brown

The most talked about position battle along the offensive line, the battle for left tackle essentially comes down to Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton. Becton, while ultra-talented, has played one total game over the past few seasons and is a relative unknown in the Jets’ offensive scheme. Conversely, Brown started from Week 5 onward and provided consistency at the position when on the field.

While Becton has massive potential, it is Duane Brown who I see winning the starting left tackle position. The Jets coaching staff loves the leadership and veteran presence that Brown brings. In addition, Brown provides value as a pass blocker and should be more effective in the running game this year, as he will not be dealing with a shoulder injury.

If not at left tackle, Becton should have the opportunity to compete at another position. The Jets may want Becton to be a productive player for them, but it will not be at Duane Brown’s position of left tackle.

Left guard: Laken Tomlinson

In the second year of a three-year, $40 million contract, Laken Tomlinson is the incumbent and should be expected to be the opening-day starter at left guard. While he struggled last season, the constantly rotating group of offensive linemen and lack of quality quarterback play could have played a part in his drop in production.

With Aaron Rodgers now under center and the Jets’ offensive line healthy, there is a chance Tomlinson bounces back this season. The better quarterback play should allow the veteran guard to get closer to his career pass-blocking production. In addition, the consistency along the offensive line should give Tomlinson a better chance to reach his run-blocking production seen in San Francisco.

Center: Connor McGovern

Picking the Jets’ starting center is a toss-up, and the competition’s winner may depend on what the coaching staff immediately wants out of the position. Connor McGovern, who the Jets re-signed this offseason, brings a veteran presence and a high floor. Joe Tippmann, drafted in the second round of this year, possesses the higher ceiling and potential at the position.

For at least opening day, I see the Jets going with McGovern as their starter at the position. With the Jets in a win-now position, the coaching staff may feel more comfortable having a veteran working with Aaron Rodgers. McGovern is not a liability at center; PFF graded him as a positive run-blocker in 2022, and he only let up five sacks in 688 opportunities. Yet, he also allowed four hits, 15 hurries, and 24 pressures last season.

Even if he does not win the job, Tippmann could easily assume the starting position if McGovern falters. He was prioritized by the Jets for a reason, and I doubt he will be off the field for long. Yet, McGovern has the inside track for the job due to his experience and familiarity with the coaching staff.

Right guard: Alijah Vera Tucker

Arguably the most talented player on the Jets’ offensive line, Alijah Vera-Tucker is a lock to be the starter at this position. At right guard last season, Vera-Tucker showed both upper-level run-blocking ability and effective pass-blocking. Vera-Tucker also showcased positional versatility, as he looked comfortable at both tackle positions.

Heading into his third season, Vera-Tucker should finally have stability around him. Between an upper-level quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and a relatively stable offensive line, Vera-Tucker should be able to continue playing at a high level. If he continues where he left off last season, the third-year offensive guard should be able to challenge for Pro Bowl, if not All-Pro honors.

Right tackle: Mekhi Becton

With left tackle already decided, the right tackle battle becomes a bit crowded. Outside of Becton, both Billy Turner and Max Mitchell could be considered competitors for the position.

The main intrigue for the right tackle position comes when factors outside the football field come into play. If Mekhi Becton refuses to play the position and demands a trade, the starting job likely comes down to Mitchell and Becton. This scenario is not an unrealistic possibility, as Becton has publicly expressed his displeasure at potentially being shifted to right tackle.

Yet, I am not inside Becton’s mind and cannot truly say what he will do if he loses the left tackle job. As a result, this scenario can only be looked at through an on-the-field lens.

Out of Turner, Becton, and Mitchell, Becton is the most talented and should win the starting right tackle position. He has shown both dominant run-blocking ability and can hold his own in pass protection. When on the field, Becton is the Jets’ best right tackle and, as a result, has the best chance to win.

No matter the starting five, health is paramount to the unit’s success

The Jets’ offensive line has a chance to be extremely productive and help push the team to a playoff spot this season. At every position, they have the talent to be at least average – and good quarterback play from Aaron Rodgers should help elevate them further.

Nothing is more important, though, than the health of the unit. Even with the added depth, the Jets need their best offensive linemen to stay healthy and be productive. A healthy season from the unit should help power the Jets to success, while an unhealthy unit could cause issues on multiple fronts for the offense.

Games are won in the trenches, even when you have an All-Pro quarterback. The Jets’ unit will dictate their season, and the first group of starting offensive linemen will greatly impact it.

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11 months ago

The narrative has been the Jets coaching staff loves Brown at LT, but I’m a little skeptical that’s entirely true. I think they love his attitude, professionalism, and leadership, but not necessarily his performance, and projected performance this year. Saleh is kind of a salesman type and I sometimes get the feeling he lauds Brown to show the rest of his troops the kind of attitude he wants from them. I think the organization as a whole also generally wants to reward Brown for playing hurt and express their appreciation. So I suspect there might be a kind of “political” aspect to all this praise of Brown. But I think they will still give the starting job to Becton if he clearly outperforms Brown.

11 months ago

Some wild thoughts, I think Becton wins the LT job. Yes, he’s been hurt, everybody expects him to be injured but he showed talent, and maybe he’s got things together. I think healthy, he’s better than Brown at this stage of his career. I like Brown as the back up, considering his age etc. if the worst thing that happens is Becton plays LT all season and the OL is so healthy Brown never sees the field, that’s good news.

Tippmann should win the C job. McGovern stinks with all due respect to his “high floor.” He’s just not good, as proven by the fact NOBODY wanted him and the Jets signed him back for a song. Guys with high floors get signed. The Jets signed Schweitzer and Colon before McGovern, that’s all we need to know about their thoughts on him. McGovern is insurance.

I think Turner will be the RT, with perhaps Mitchell or Warren pushing for the spot. My thinking is if Becton isn’t “good” at RT they won’t play him there, and they have always said they want the best 5. I wonder if that means as a group or each guy at their spot? The best 5 as a group may mean AVT at RT.

11 months ago

When Becton eventually gets hurt perhaps AVT moves to RT and Tippmann goes to RG.