Between now and preseason, we’ll be breaking down the Jets’ undrafted rookies. Today, we break down former Minnesota-Duluth offensive lineman Brent Laing.
The 24-year old Laing is listed at 6’3” and 304 pounds and was a two-time Division II all-American who started 39 games in college.
Laing was a four year starter in high school but was not ranked as a recruit, mainly due to the fact that he was only 240 pounds. He therefore opted to attend Division II Minnesota-Duluth on a $5K scholarship.
After redshirting the 2017 season, Laing played in 10 games at right guard in 2018 and then moved to right tackle and started 10 more games in 2019, for which he earned all-NSIC first team recognition.
The 2020 season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic but he started 24 straight games in 2021 and 2022, as he was named a Division II first-team all-American and again recognized as an all-NSIC first-teamer in each year.
Laing could have transferred to a bigger school towards the end of his college career but ultimately opted to stay where he was. At the end of his final season, he was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl and the scouting combine with some analysts projecting him as a late round pick.
Having not been selected in the draft, Laing was excited to take an opportunity at an undrafted free agent deal with the New York Jets. He’s their only offensive lineman from this year’s undrafted free agent haul, although they did also draft two. His contract contains a $5K signing bonus and $40K of guaranteed salary.
Now let’s take a look at what Laing brings to the table, divided into categories.
Laing, who added over 60 pounds since enrolling at UMD, is regarded as a good athlete, although he lacks ideal length.
He was only able to perform in the bench press in the combine, putting up 24 reps. However, he had some good numbers at Minnesota’s pro day. His explosiveness numbers were solid and his agility numbers were above average.
In terms of his 40-yard dash, it was initially reported that he had been clocked at sub-five seconds, although the officially logged time was 5.19. That’s still good though.
Laing’s first season at UMD saw him line up at right guard but then he moved over to right tackle for his last three seasons.
For the NFL level, he had already decided to work inside, due to the fact that his lack of length would be an issue at the tackle position.
In practice for the Shrine Bowl, he was asked to work at center because teams had been requesting this, so he agreed to do so even though he hadn’t played the position since his junior year of high school. Most of his reps in the game itself were at that position but he did also play some right guard. He got some left guard reps in practice too.
Laing had a good record in pass protection in college and didn’t give up a single sack in his final season, comfortably staying in front of and often burying his man. However, he didn’t really face any top-level pass rushers.
The Shrine Bowl was more of a test for him and revealed some of the areas he will need to work at. On this play he gets overpowered and bull rushed into the quarterback’s lap.
At the center position, he is still adjusting to the need for him to get into his stance and get his hands on his opponent immediately after snapping the ball. This was a common theme. On this play, his man beats him to a spot.
Laing’s skill-set looks like it would make him effective on screen passes but it was hard to find any examples of him being called upon to do this in his film.
Laing’s film from his time at UMD is ridiculous in places as he was extremely dominant against players who were mostly at a massive disadvantage due to a lack of either speed or size, if not both. It’s perhaps difficult to project too much from his film because clearly he’ll have an adjustment to make in terms of facing bigger and stronger opponents.
He was extremely effective in all situations in the trenches, driving his man off the line, sealing him off to set the edge and often just throwing him aside. He was also capable of peeling off and climbing to the second level, and he shows an ability to block on the move and in space.
On the whole, Laing had an inconsistent game as a run blocker in the Shrine Bowl, but he was also adjusting to the center position as well as the rise in level of competition. This negative play came when he was at guard though.
He did have some positive reps though. Here’s one where he does his job well in a pin-and-pull scenario, holding his man at bay despite a possible illegal hands to the face penalty.
Laing was also effective in short yardage situations, with his ability to fire off the line being a major asset.
As noted, a major issue for Laing is that, when playing center, he is still adjusting to having to snap the ball before he gets into position to make a block. His hands generally can be quick but his hand placement is inconsistent.
This can also affect him in the running game, as aggressive defenders are going to get the first punch in and stand him up or penetrate.
His footwork and balance seem promising and he has a good understanding of angles. He can make reach blocks, stay on his man on stretch plays and has the explosiveness getting out of his stance to get outside his man’s shoulder and seal him off.
In 2022, Laing’s on-field discipline was reasonably good but he did have two offensive holding penalties and two false starts, both of which came in the same game.
One box score indicates he also had a defensive penalty for encroachment, but it hasn’t been possible to confirm whether he took some reps on the defensive line or this was just an error.
Laing likely wouldn’t be expected to contribute on special teams, other than perhaps as a blocker on the placekicking unit. He undertook this role in the Shrine Bowl without incident.
Laing is apparently a coachable player who obviously showed some versatility during his career. Other than the two pre-snap penalties, he didn’t seem to make any obvious mental mistakes.
One thing he demonstrates is an impressive ability to carry out more than one assignment on a given run play.
In pass protection, Laing has shown some ability to pass off stunts and to keep his head on a swivel and to help out where needed when he’s the spare man.
He’s also eager to hit someone, so he’ll go looking for work whenever he’s being employed as the spare man.
Laing’s coaches speak highly of him, praising his loyalty after he opted to finish his career at UMD when he could have raised his profile by transferring.
He was a leader and a team captain and is considered a good person and teammate, displaying toughness and a team-first attitude.
He credits the challenge his defensive line teammates gave him every day in practice as one of the reasons for his work ethic, which he put to good use during the pandemic, as he embraced the challenge of making himself better during a year off.
On the field, he’s a nasty finisher, often putting his man on the ground and showing a fired-up demeanor when he makes a key block.
Laing started all 24 games in his last two years, but minor injuries did cause him to miss three games over his first two seasons. He was unable to work out at the combine due to a hamstring issue.
When Laing signed for the Jets, he told the media he was excited to join them because he had played in a similar scheme to theirs and believed he’d be a good fit. He met with Jets offensive line coach Keith Carter during the pre-draft process.
The Jets have a lot of depth on the offensive line and someone like Laing would seem like someone who might be a good bet to be placed on the practice squad. A roster spot seems highly unlikely for 2023 at least, but he does have some fundamentals that could make him a development project.
If Laing can master the center position, that will be a useful thing to add to his résumé and improve his chances of being a rotational backup down the road.