clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Hey Joe, What’s The Story?

Are the Jets getting better in the trenches?

Syndication: The Record Kevin R. Wexler / USA TODAY NETWORK

I know I have carped, complained, yelled (at the top of my lungs), moaned, criticized, protested, groused and overall objected to the way Joe Douglas has assembled the Jets offensive line. This has gone on since his arrival as GM. It’s not even a recent event, it’s been a constant howl since he’s made mistake after mistake. I hate to write this since I was very excited when the Jets made Joe Douglas our GM. Joe did it the right way, came up through the ranks, learned from the best until he got his shot. He’s even a former offensive tackle at the University of Richmond. However, when you get your shot, you must hit the mark. Even a slight miss can start a descent into failure.

What makes this so appalling is the fact that when Joe was hired his first stated directive was to build a dominant offensive line. He impressed at his hiring press conference saying “this is a game of wills. And 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, not just on the offensive line but the defensive line.” He also stated that there was a “sense of urgency” to win right away and to build a team that dominates the line of scrimmage. He also said that “you have to build through the draft for long-term success.” That result has been poor except for a single 2022 draft that brought in cornerback Sauce Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson, defensive end Jermaine Johnson and running back Breece Hall, but yielded only one offensive lineman, Max Mitchell, who has been overmatched so far.

Building a dominant offensive line was an imperative from day one of the Joe Douglas regime since his hire over 4 years ago. This isn’t something the fans dreamed up. It was Joe’s own words. When you start a tenure with a single stated goal it’s probably best to deliver on that goal. The fact that the goal seemed blatantly obvious to every Jets fan made it more inescapable that Joe needed to get it done.

It’s not like Joe said “we want an efficient or capable offensive line.” No, he said dominant!! So far he has been as far away from dominant as you can get. When you want the best you had better draft the best or you are going to be short on your goal. If you make a glaring mistake you are going to get hammered, and Joe has made a ton of them. As of week 12 in the NFL PFF was being kind in rating the Jets offensive line as the 4th worst in the NFL.

I understand you can make a mistake, you can draft the wrong guy. It happens. It can get you fired but it happens. So who has Joe Douglas drafted for the offensive line as the Jets GM to support his mantra of dominating in the trenches?

In his first year with the Jets, Joe Douglas was hired after the Jets allowed Mike Maccagnan to spend a boatload of money in free agency and draft Quinnen Williams and not much else in the 2019 NFL draft. Maccagnan used a third round pick on a player, Jachai Polite, that didn’t even make it through training camp.

When Joe Douglas started he had an entire year to set up his scouts, observe his team, make decisions about players and player groups that most first year GMs don’t get. He gets a pass because Maccagnan selected those players, but he had nearly a year to study his team. GM’s hired in January don’t have that luxury.

2020

Joe’s first draft class actually came in his second year with the team, which is weird but typical of the Woody Johnson regime. In 2020 Joe drafted two offensive linemen. With the 11th overall pick in the first round Douglas selected Mekhi Becton. Becton started 14 of a possible 50 games coming into the 2023 season. With the 129th overall pick, in the fourth round Joe selected Cameron Clark from Charlotte (a player I had highlighted in an article). Clark showed promise as a possible starter as a guard, but a neck injury ended his career. It is interesting that Clark has become a guru of sorts (after his retirement) as a trainer for NFL athletes. He was instrumental in resurrecting the career of Mekhi Becton.

Other quality linemen selected in 2020 by other teams

Jonah Jackson G, Ohio State, selected #75

I was very high on Jackson but Joe selected Ashtyn Davis instead. I had Davis much lower in my rankings. I thought Davis was in play in the 6th round as a great special teamer possibly. Jackson has turned into a quality player who helped make Lions offensive line one of the best in the NFL today.

Kevin Dotson G, Louisiana #135

I liked Dotson in this draft, but I had his teammate Robert Hunt who played tackle rated higher than Dotson. Even though Hunt was a tackle I had him as a guard. He was selected #39 by the Dolphins. I had Dotson as a 3rd round talent. With Hunt gone it would have been a toss up between Dotson and Cameron Clark at #129. Dotson went at #135. I probably would have taken Clark.

Tyler Biadasz C, Wisconsin selected #146

I really liked Biadasz in 2019. I thought he was the second best center prospect that year. He had an injury late that year and had hip surgery to fix the problem. He came back in 2020 but was not the same player. The guy I wanted was Creed Humphrey from Oklahoma but he decided to go back to school and came out in 2021.

2021

In 2021 Joe traded up to select Alijah Vera-Tucker, who was a tackle at USC but projected as a guard in the NFL. I liked AVT in the draft, I had him rated as my #14 prospect, yet I thought it was very foolish for a team picking at #2 in the draft to trade away two third round picks to move up in the draft. If you do that the player you select should soon be an All-Pro or you just wasted two premium picks. Trading that type of draft capital is reserved for successful teams who may be a player or two away from a championship, not a rebuilding team in need of talent. That trade (I said at the time) was very foolish.

Quality offensive tackles are much more difficult to find than quality guards. The best way to build a dominant offensive line is to find two bookend tackles along with a solid center with the ability to lead an offensive line. I dare say that had Joe Douglas used this approach then Aaron Rodgers would still be the Jets starting QB today. It was a quick whiff on a block by Duane Brown (who probably wasn’t totally healthy) that caused the Aaron Rodgers sack and injury 4 plays into the year.

2021 was a critical year as the Jets were selecting a quarterback to become their franchise leader. The offensive line is extra important in helping develop a young quarterback. A quality center can make all the line calls, allowing the quarterback to focus on the defense to make plays in the passing game. A quality line also makes for a great running game. The best friend of a rookie quarterback is a great offensive line and a solid running game. As it turned out Alijah Vera-Tucker was the only offensive lineman selected by the Jets in 2021.

The guy I wanted, Creed Humphrey, ended up being selected #63 (which was a steal) by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets selected Elijah Moore with their 2nd round pick and he was traded away less than two years later. Humphrey is one of the top centers in the league now. He had overall blocking grades at PFF of over 90 as a rookie and in 2022. He was selected as an All-Pro in 2022. He has started every game for the Chiefs since he was drafted.

With the two 3rd round picks the Jets traded away they could have selected:

OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa #93

Brown has developed into a very solid left tackle. He has great length and has now increased his power to move people in the run game. I had him ranked at #104 so he went near where I had him pegged.

OG Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin Whitewater #98

Meinerz was an unknown until the Senior Bowl, where he dominated many from larger schools. He was drafted late in the 3rd round, but I had him rated at #50 so he was a huge bargain in my book. He has become one of the best run blocking guards in the NFL. He has had solid PFF grades every year he has been in the NFL.

Other Offensive linemen available

OT Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan #155

Moore has been a solid swing tackle for the 49ers since entering the league. He has been excellent when called on which is difficult since you have to work either side of the line. I had him rated at #151.

OG Trey Smith, Tennessee #226

I had Smith ranked at #81 but he fell down the boards over health concerns. He had some blood clotting in the lungs that has been rectified by medication. Smith has had solid blocking grades since he entered the league. He and Creed Humphrey (who play side by side) have not missed a snap since they entered the league. Smith has monster size and can dominate at the point of the attack. This was originally the Jets pick, but it was traded as a throw away extra pick when the Jets received multiple picks from Kansas City. The Jets still had pick # 200 (Brandon Echols) and #207 (Jonathan Marshall) to select Smith but choose not to. Marshall is no longer in the NFL.

2022

The Jets 2022 draft will go down as one of the best drafts, if not the best draft, in Jets history as the Jets selected Sauce Gardner #4, Garrett Wilson #10, Jermaine Johnson #26 and Breece Hall #36. They added Jeremy Ruckert late in the 3rd at #101 then tackle Max Mitchell at #111. Their last pick was Michael Clemons at #117.

You really can’t quibble with any of these picks. I had Mitchell rated a little higher than he was selected, the only difference I thought you could beef him up and turn him into a guard. He isn’t real quick, lacks length and he is just small for a tackle, but he has good technique.

In truth 2022 was a very poor year for offensive line prospects as a whole. I liked OT Tyler Smith from Tulsa, but he went at #24 to Dallas. Smith has been a quality OT/G for the Cowboys so far in his career. He has really come into his own this year as a dominant RG. Smith was my selection as the Jets GM in the annual GGN mock draft.

I also liked OT Zach Tom (#140), who I was holding out for with the Jets last pick. Tom played OT and C at Wake Forest. He was very solid, he held his own no matter where he played. He reminded me of a ten year NFL vet by the way he played. He was very calm and rarely made a mistake. He wasn’t dominant at the college level, but he is doing a super job so far with the Packers as a RT. My initial thought was Tom could have been a swing tackle who could also move inside to center in a pinch. He would have come in handy this year.

2023

In 2023 the Jets selected two offensive linemen, although none of them were named Broderick Jones. Jones was in play for the Jets until the Aaron Rodgers trade, when they acquiesced to the Packer by moving back from #13 to #15. Jones has been reasonably solid considering he has played both left tackle and right tackle this season. As expected he is a work in progress.

The Jets selected Joe Tippmann at #43. Tippmann was my highest rated center in the 2023 NFL draft and he was my overall #32 player. Tippman has been okay so far in limited snaps. He has been solid in run blocking and a little shaky in pass blocking, which is to be expected. I think Tippmann will develop just fine over time and should be a stout lineman at either center or guard for many years. Ideally 2023 should have been a learning year for Tippmann behind a veteran, but he was thrust into action early in the year due to injuries on the Jets line.

The Jets took offensive tackle Carter Warren in the 4th round (#120). Warren was injured in the fourth game of his final college season, so much of my grading on him was from 2021. I had Warren at #127, so that is right in line with the Jets thinking. He is a better pass blocker than run blocker right now. He is a big kid with a seven foot+ wingspan. He needs to work on technique, but Warren has a chance to be solid if he can develop. I thought the Carter pick was solid from where the Jets were in the draft.

2023 wasn’t a banner year for offensive linemen so the Jets did well to get who they got after all the dust settled. After Jones went off the board there wasn’t another offensive lineman with a 1st round grade.

Summary

The Jets offensive line in 2019 (the year Joe Douglas was hired by the Jets)

LT Kelvin Beachum

LG Alex Lewis

C Jonotthan Harrison

RG Brian Winters

RT Brandon Shell

Joe Douglas came to the Jets with a mantra to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the Ball. He has done a good job on the defensive line (mostly through free agency) but the offensive line has been a problem.

Offensive line players Joe has drafted in his 4 draft classes

OT Mekhi Becton (Pick # 11)

OT/G Cameron Clark (Pick #129)

OG Alijah Vera-Tucker (Pick #14)

OT Max Mitchell (Pick #111)

OC/G Joe Tippmann (Pick #43)

OT Carter Warren (Pick #120)

Joe stated that he wanted to build a dominant offensive line through the draft. After four drafts this is the result of that talent search. Do you think this is an acceptable job in allotting draft assets to an area of your team you want to be dominant? Is this what Joe meant when he stated “you have to build through the draft for long-term success.”

The Jets starting offensive line in game #9 with the playoffs on the line:

LT Mekhi Becton

LG Laken Tomlinson

OC Joe Tippmann (R)

RG Max Mitchell

RT Carter Warren (R)

The only guy on that line who was not drafted by Joe Douglas is Laken Tomlinson, who Joe signed to a massive contract. Tomlinson has a cap hit this year of $10,880,000 and a cap hit next year of $18,740,00 with three voidable years to boot. Those voidable years are nearly $5 million in total and come due all at once if the Jets cut Thomlinson.

Tomlinson was poor last year and this year is worse. Through eight games he had allowed 28 pressures and 5 sacks. It would be a lot more if Zach Wilson wasn’t so mobile. I can’t imagine how many sacks he would allow with Aaron Rodgers behind him.

Xavier Newman briefly passed Max Mitchell as the Jets starter at right guard. Newman is an UDFA out of Baylor University who was signed by the Tennessee Titans. He was waived from the roster on October 2 this year and was picked up by the Jets on October 5. Needless to say Newman is a replacement level talent. He was eventually cut by the Jets.

The Jets also signed Connor McGovern in 2020 to play center, which has been a huge failure. In 3 seasons (coming into 2023) McGovern had allowed (in 48 total games played) 76 QB pressures, 15 sacks and committed 10 penalties. 2023 has been worse with 18 pressures, 1 sack and 6 penalties in 7 games played.

You could easily argue that the offensive line that Joe started with in 2019 was better than the offensive line he has today, after 4 full drafts and free agency periods. This from the guy who preached the need to dominate the line of scrimmage.

You can’t run an NFL offense behind a line like this. You can’t develop a young quarterback behind a line like this. This mess falls directly on the shoulders of Joe Douglas. Like I said if you have an edict you are adamant about, you better deliver or the roof is going to cave in on you. Right now the cracks in the ceiling are huge, so Joe better start delivering.

I don’t know what you can do to stop the bleeding this year. Offensive linemen don’t grow on trees. The problem is Joe could have possibly gotten some draft capital for next year by trading Dalvin Cook or Carl Lawson or Michael Carter, who was released right after the trading deadline. You might not get a lot, but something is better than nothing. Neither Cook nor Lawson will be here next year. Israel Abanikanda is a better back right now than Cook. He is faster, stronger and can run through arm tackles. Carl Lawson has played a grand total of 73 snaps this year. Every snap that Lawson gets takes away from the reps rookie Will McDonald could have had.

If you pick up some late draft picks you never know what you might find. Wayne Gretzky used to preach “all the shots you never take never score.” In the 7th round of the 2022 draft both running back Isiah Pacheco (#251) and quarterback Brock Purdy (#262) were selected.

The reason to trade is to save some salary cap and amass more draft capital. Unlike the last two years, the 2024 NFL draft will have a plethora of offensive line talent to choose from. Not only can you get a high quality player in the first round, but when one player group is so loaded, inevitably some players fall so you can get a steal later in the draft. It happens more than you might think.

It was not the intent to be so negative in this article, but it just came naturally as I was writing it. As a person who spends probably a thousand hours a year scouting the draft, each year I expect our Jets (who have nearly infinite resources) to do better than me, but lately they have failed the Jets fan base.

I will be working on a number of articles related to the offensive line in the near future. I will also work to give pertinent articles on the highest graded offensive line prospects in the upcoming 2024 NFL draft once the college season is over.

What do you think? Is the 2023 Jets offensive line better than the 2019 offensive line?

Please explain in comments what your thoughts are.

Poll

Which Offensive line is better?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    1) The Jets 2023 line is better
    (44 votes)
  • 13%
    2) The Jets 2019 offensive line was better
    (61 votes)
  • 0%
    3) I think both offensive lines are equally good
    (3 votes)
  • 47%
    4) I think both offensive lines are equally horrible
    (206 votes)
  • 28%
    5) I’d rather not think about it
    (124 votes)
438 votes total Vote Now