The Jets offensive line was the best part of the offense when the Jets made back to back AFC championship appearances 11 long years ago. Since than it has been neglected and since the retirement of Ferguson and Mangold, it has been one of the worst units in the NFL. However since taking over, Douglas has made it a top priority replacing the entire line in 2 years. He quickly traded for Alex Lewis and signed Greg Van-Roten, Connor McGovern, and George Fant in free agency. While these moves filled holes, the focus was always on the draft where he drafted Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Cameron Clarke. Becton and Tucker immediately make this offensive line respectable with the potential to be great. This line is already significantly improved but the most important factor in improving the O line is the transition to a zone scheme and the addition of John Benton as OL coach. Becton and AVT are both elite prospects with strength and athleticism that will dominate in any scheme. However, Mcgovern and Fant should thrive in a zone scheme that accentuates their strengths. It’s an open battle at RG but with Lewis, GVR, Clarke and Hoge competing, I feel comfortable with whoever wins.
Mekhi Becton looks the part at a whopping 6’-7" and 365 lbs while also displaying elite athleticism and speed. There were concerns in college as he rarely had true passing sets but he quickly showed he was more than up to the task erasing elite pass rushers like Aaron Donald, Melvin Ingram, and Joey and Nick Bosa giving up 0 total pressures. As expected though, the highlight reel turns on in the run game where he dominated opposing lineman with his size and strength. The Jets had their best success when running behind him with my favorite play coming where he crashed down on Aaron Donald and opened up a path for Frank Gores 100th touchdown. The only concern about Becton is injuries as he missed 30% of the season and has been diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis. If those concerns subside however, I have full confidence Becton can be the best tackle in the NFL. He has all the natural tools and has shown in the offseason that he will put in the work to continue to improve.
Alijah Vera Tucker was considered the best guard in the draft and was considered a top 10 talent by Joe Douglas. So the fact that we were able to get him at 14 feels like a steal despite the capital that we gave up to get him. His college tape is as dominant and technically refined as they come with some comparing him with studs Quenton Nelson and Zach Martin… not bad company. In college he started 13 games at left guard in 2019 where he won best lineman on the team over the 18th overall pick Austin Jackson. In 2020 he played at left tackle where he continued to dominate earning the Morris Trophy which is awarded to the best lineman voted on by opposing players. In college he dominated as a run blocker as the Trojan averaged a ridiculous 8.3 YPC behind him and his run blocking grade was the best in the Pac-12. Tucker is perfectly suited for Lafleur’s zone scheme as he brings elite athleticism and was at his best when USC was zone heavy. His pass protection was even better only allowing 7 pressures in 2019 which was 2nd best among Power 5 guards. Many analysts and myself expect him to be a day 1 starter with All-Pro upside within his first few years. Him and Becton will be the backbone of this OL and can elevate our line to its highest level in a decade.
Connor McGovern has the potential to make or break the Jets offensive line this season. In 2019 McGovern was a top 10 center and among the best in pass protection which resulted in his payday with the Jets. 2020 started rough for McGovern as he allowed 20 pressures, most among centers, and was ranked 22nd as a run blocker. However from wks 9-16, McGovern ranked 7th among all centers carried by dominant run blocking, which ranked 3rd by PFF and improved in pass protection only allowing 13 pressures. After a season of elite pass protection in 2019 and dominant run blocking in the 2nd half of 2020, I’m even more excited to see what he can do in 2021. The Jets will also be transitioning to a outside zone scheme, which will emphasize McGovern’s strengths, under the tutelage of OL coaching legend John Benton. If he can maintain that level of play in a better scheme next to Tucker, our OL will be dominant.
George Fant is coming off his 1st season as a starter where he flashed his upside but also showed he still needs to improve. Fant is an elite athlete with measurables comparable to Tristan Wirfs. He was the 6th man in Seattle before Douglas gave him the opportunity to start for the Jets. As expected Fant was at his best in pass protection but left something to be desired in the run game. His 2020 season was a mixed bag as there were games where he would erase elite edge rushers and others where he was simply overwhelmed in both phases of the game. With rumors of the Jets pursuing Morgan Moses, Fant’s job may be in jeopardy. I believe he has the physical tools to be a starting caliber RT however he needs to improve as a run blocker and be far more consistent.
Right guard is the most open position on the Jets with 5 players competing for the starting role. I expect Greg Van Roten to keep the job as he’s a good pass protector that improved as the season went on. At 31 he’s the oldest player on the Jets offense but still offers the best protection to Zach Wilson. Behind him is Alex Lewis who started at left guard the past 2 years. He flashed in 2019 but struggled mightily in pass protection in 2020 and but was respectable as a run blocker. Behind them is Dan Feeney from the Chargers and current mascot of the New York Islanders. Unfortunately, he handles beers significantly better than defensive lineman as he allowed the most pressures and hurries in 2020. Overall, I’m not thrilled by any of them however I feel comfortable that it can’t be worst than last year. However I’m hoping some young guys can step up.
Cameron Clarke was drafted in the 4th round last year and many fand including myself expected him to make a push to start. His college tape was dominant especially against Clemson and his teammates raved about him. However, despite horrendous play and injuries at guard, Clarke failed to even crack the roster spending the season on the practice squad. I’m unsure what the reason was but I hope a year in and NFL weight room will allow him to make an impact in 2021. I believe he can be a starter in the NFL and I hope he gets a chance to show what he can do on Sunday.
Tristen Hoge is an exciting name despite being and UDFA. Wilson’s former teammate was a highly touted recruit out of highschool that committed to Notre Dame before transferring to BYU for more opportunities. There he quickly showed his worth starting at RG since 2018. His 2020 season was the best as he didn’t allow a single sack and only 1 hit and 2 hurries. He displays good athleticism and strength and is regarded as one of the most technically proficient. He should thrive in the Jets new zone scheme and can be a sleeper at guard this year and in the future.
The last player I’m going to focus on is Chuma Edoga. The Jets 3rd round pick in 2018 has failed to impress in 2 years and 16 starts. Coming out of college Edoga was PFF’s highest graded pass blocker not allowing a single sack or hit in 2018. In the NFL he flashed upside as a rookie especially in pass protection however has allowed one of the highest pressure rates over the past 2 years and has consistently disappointed as a run blocker. I’m hoping with time to add strength and improve his technique he could develop into a start but that has yet to materialize. I’m one of the few that have not given up on him but his time is running out.
The Jets offensive line is world’s ahead of the unit we ran out in 2018. I truly believe this group can be top 10 in the NFL with an influx of talent and an improved scheme. Becton can be the best tackle in the NFL if he can stay healthy. AVT was dominant in college and many expect him to immediately be above average and develop into an All-Pro. McGovern bounced back from a rough start to have a dominant 2nd half against the run to go along with elite pass protection in 2019. I have high expectations for these 3 and our offense will go as far as they take us. Fant is coming off his 1st year as a starter with average production but has high potential with his freakish athleticism. Only true question mark is RG where we have 3 vets and 2 young guys who I believe can be starters. The Jets offense will take a huge leap this year and as always it starts in the trenches. If the Jets do pursue Morgan Moses for RG than this unit will be elite. Douglas has quickly flipped the worst OL in football to a young and rising unit. LETS GO JETS
Too talk about Morgan Moses more I believe the Jets should absolute sign him. According to UStadium the Jets offered a multi-year deal worth approximately $6-$9 million. He would be an absolute steal at that price as the 15th ranked OT in 2020. An absolute mauler in the run game him and Becton would give the Jets 2 dominant tackles and could give the Jets a top 10 OL. His lack of athleticism shows up in pass protection however as Moses allowed a career high 41 pressures this year. If he would accept moving to guard I would be ecstatic as it would emphasize his power and fill our biggest hole. I believe Fant can become one of the better right tackles in the league given his superb athleticism and relative inexperience at tackle. Best case scenario Moses can have a career resurgence similar to Andrew Whitworth when he joined the Rams. Love what Joe Douglas is doing