Jets center Connor McGovern and the team's rookie quarterback Zach Wilson are as close as can be on plays from scrimmage. But when it comes to their ages the six-plus years that separates them can, at times, seem like a yawning gulf.
"This pass protection, the way we run it compared to last year, it's more simple, not quite as difficult on the mental side, which is nice having a young quarterback," McGovern, 28, said about his 22-year-old QB. "He's young and when I try to tell him a story I thought is super relevant, I realize he was in high school, maybe middle school. But we're building a really good relationship."
That relationship between snapper and passer often is taken for granted across a long NFL season, which begins for the Jets at Carolina on Sept. 12. For McGovern, however, there's little more important than the dynamic with a signal-caller and the cohesion among offensive linemen. The Jets are in Green Bay, WI, for two days of joint practices against the Packers ahead of Saturday's late afternoon preseason game at Lambeau Field. On Wednesday, McGovern conceded that the offensive line was challenged in the early going of Day 1 of the joint practices.
"As today went on I think we had a pretty good day," McGovern (6-4, 306) said. "Pass protecting, for the most part, was solid. We were going against some cats that bring it every single snap, every single day. As far as I'm concerned, we're doing pretty good and getting better every day. I mean we didn't allow a sack last week."
The Jets signed McGovern to a three-year deal in free agency in April 2020. His professionalism and durability were everything were cracked up to be during the 2020 season, his first in New York. Since being drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2016 (a season in which he did not play), McGovern, a native of Fargo, ND, has missed only one regular-season start from 2017-20. In fact, he has started each of his teams' 16 regular-season games in three straight seasons.
That stat bears repeating: 16 starts in three straight seasons.
Those are staggering numbers for any player, but particularly for an offensive lineman (see also OL Moses Morgan) charged with banging and bruising against defensive linemen determined to harass the quarterback.
Robert Saleh said of McGovern: "He's been having a really nice camp. Obviously, our blocking combinations, things we ask the center to do are different than what he's done in the past. At the same time, he's incredibly bright, he's very athletic. Now it's just a matter of getting reps and build that relationship with not only Zach, but the right guard, left guard, tackles, and everybody else in that room"
As the Jets get set for their second game of the preseason, after last Saturday's 12-7 win over the Giants, McGovern is bullish on the O-line and the "kid" who's barking plays back there.
"This year it's a huge difference," he said. "Again it goes back to schemes, and it helps me personally. As an O-line we did as much as could last year, but we were pretty limited. This year we're doing as much as we can and it's a lot. It's a super-close room, not too cliquey, we're having a lot of fun, growing, excited to go out and win. This line fires me up. Our coaches are some of the best I've ever had. I'm really looking forward to this year and big things as we continue to grow."
During the two-team practice on Wednesday, McGovern said that the Packers' D-line was playing a bit soft as it challenged Wilson.
"I felt they [the Packers] were dropping, playing a lot of coverage making Zach make plays," McGovern said. "I could kind of see him using his feet a little more today. I think he got out well, he wasn't giddy. When nothing was open, he was able to go and show he has that playmaking ability. Zach's been awesome and you can see the growth every single day."
See the Best Images from Wednesday's Joint Practice in Green Bay