Jets head coach Robert Saleh created a stir in the fanbase on Wednesday when he publicly stated that he isn’t considering making changes to the offensive line.
Robert Saleh is not considering any offensive line changes. #jets— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) September 20, 2023
It isn’t hard to see why this is being questioned. The Jets offensive line was miserable in the team’s Week 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. 38 year old tackle Duane Brown struggled in particular against Micah Parsons. His play seems to be calling for a benching.
Of course it’s one thing to call for a change. When a team fails, the general manager and/or head coach sometimes get fired. That’s the easy part. Finding a replacement who will improve things is much more difficult.
The same applies in a situation like this. Quite frankly, the Jets will need to try something if Brown’s struggles continue to this degree. That doesn’t necessarily mean we can expect a great deal of success from any alternative.
The solution most discussed involves a complete reshuffling of the line. Joe Tippmann would come in to play right guard. Alijah Vera-Tucker would move to right tackle. Mekhi Becton would flip across the field back to left tackle.
Think about that for a second. For all intents and purposes, this would involve three of your five offensive lineman playing out of position. Tippmann has limited experience at guard. He is a center. Outside of a two week emergency stint last year, Vera-Tucker has worked at guard in the pros. If you want to argue only two players are out of position since Becton was a full-time left tackle in his rookie season, I guess I could buy it. Still, this would be flipping him to a new spot on the fly after he has worked to get settled at right tackle.
It also is anything but clear this line would work effectively. You would be throwing together five players with no experience passing off stunts or executing combo blocks. The quality of play is an open question. Becton did not play very well himself against Dallas. Tippmann is a rookie who had an uneven preseason.
Vera-Tucker is a promising young offensive lineman. It is worth noting, however, that some of his roughest moments against the Cowboys came when Dallas slide edge rushers like Demarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons inside to face him one on one. These are the types of players he would face regularly at the tackle position.
There is a very real chance that the biggest impact of the Jets reshuffling their line would be to weaken the right guard spot by moving Vera-Tucker out of a position where he is growing into an effective player.
Desperate times do call for desperate measures. Soon the Jets might need to try something new out of desperation if the play up front does not improve. I just wouldn’t overestimate the likelihood of this actually elevating the level of play in a significant way.
The reality is that it’s likely too late to make a meaningful difference in the quality of the offensive line. The time for upgrades is in the offseason.
Here’s my analogy of the day. Offensive line success is a bit like the trajectory of a college semester for a student. The best ones go to class, do their reading, and stay on top of their homework. This is like building a line with the right moves in the offseason.
The final exam is the actual season. Trying to reconstruct a line on the fly is like the student who did none of the prep work and tries to pull an all-night cram session to pass. Maybe you can pull it off, but it’s not easy. It’s too late to do thing the high percentage way.