The Jets offensive line, which some observers were speculating could be an NFL top 10 unit, has gone into line limbo with the possible season-ending injury to tackle Mekhi Becton. Now those observers, all outside One Jets Drive, aren't sure.
But second-year guard Alijah Vera-Tucker respectfully sees it differently.
"I think it can definitely still be good," Vera-Tucker, who's now at RG and was gearing up to work alongside Becton at RT after breaking in on the left side as a rookie. "We've still got Lake [Laken Tomlinson], [George] Fant, Gov [Connor McGovern] and me. All it is is the right tackle position right now. We've got good guys in the locker room, guys that want to come in and prove themselves every day. Only time will tell. We can just come in and put the work in."
Now one of the questions is who that RT will be. And the answer is perhaps more interesting than it at first appears.
There is still the prospect of signing veteran free agent Duane Brown, the 14-year pro and five-time Pro Bowler who was at the Green & White Practice Saturday. At last report, general manager Joe Douglas and Browns' representatives were still talking.
"Duane, like I said after the Green & White, the feelings are mutual," head coach Robert Saleh said Tuesday. "I have history with him and we have history with him, JB [OL coach John Benton] has history with him. So we'll see, I'll let Joe handle that one."
But there are also potential answers on the roster. At the moment, Chuma Edoga and fourth-round rookie Max Mitchell are lining up on the right side. And Edoga has a good track record as a Jet — 24 games, 12 starts, 755 offensive snaps in three Jets seasons — plus a few character references on the team.
"I think Chuma's very talented," DL Carl Lawson said Wednesday. "He has very long arms and quick feet."
"Chuma's two years in the offense now. He knows how it works," AVT said. "Max, we drafted him for a reason. They're good guys on and off the field, they want to work with us as an offense and a team."
But as Saleh reminded, the position is now open, and "the most important thing — no offense to anyone else on the team — is to protect the quarterback. So the person who's best prepared to protect the quarterback will be out there."
The next-man-up mantra is a device in every O-lineman's toolkit, as Vera-Tucker explained when it was suggested that maybe he and 2021 Pro Bowler Tomlinson could be the new driving force on the line.
"It's never really one guy who makes the whole line good," he said. "Everybody has to be in sync, everybody has to work together in order for it to be a good offensive line. Me and Laken, we have the same personality. We don't hear that kind of talk, 'two best guards.' We just put our heads down. On any offensive line, if all five aren't doing well, then nobody is doing well. That's kind of how it works."
And how it works with Becton is he'll have another season of rehabbing a knee injury. Meanwhile, the rest of the unit once again will not enter and exit a regular season with the same intact group that was envisioned to be the starting five from the start of camp. The last time that happened for the Jets was 2012 with the quintet of D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore and Austin Howard.
"Yeah, it was devastating," Vera-Tucker said, referring not to the last 10 years of Jets O-lines in flux but to Becton's injury at Monday's practice. "That's my dog, my homie out there working his tail off every day of the offseason and now in camp. Yeah, it sucks, nobody enjoys it. But we pray he gets healthy and we move on."
See the Green & White on the practice field in full pads during week three at training camp.