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Greg Van Roten Rides a Season on the Jets' O-Line Roller-Coaster

'Surreal Year' as Right Guard Played for His Hometown Team During the COVID-19 Pandemic


All the Jets on the 2020 roster went through a difficult season. Not all of them would describe the season using words such as "surreal" and "iteration."

But Greg Van Roten is, after all, an Ivy Leaguer, not to mention a starter on the Jets' offensive line.

"It was definitely a surreal year, in more ways than one," Van Roten told's Eric Allen. "Personally, I got married and bought a house. Professionally, I got to play for my hometown team during a global pandemic and all the obstacles that entailed. So it is a year I will never forget."

Surreal is a good adjective for the past campaign, since GVR, the Long Islander who started 13 games at right guard, noted the simultaneous "coolness" and "weirdness" of the Green & White's weekly routine as they battled their opponents while rolling with the punches of the COVID-19 protocols.

"It was cool being able to play for the Jets after growing up a fan and playing in a stadium that I had watched games in," the sixth-year player said. "But it was weird just traveling around the country and staying in hotels that were empty and playing in stadiums that were empty. Not being able to go out for dinner or see family and friends in different towns was weird."

See the Top Photos of Connor McGovern, Mekhi Becton and the Jets O-Line in 2020

Van Roten also rode the roller-coaster of the Jets' virtually all-new offensive line that nevertheless went through nine different starting lineups with nine different starters due primarily to injuries that KO'd starters anywhere from one to five weeks at a time.

"There was no offseason, so we didn't get those 10 weeks in the spring to kind of come together as a unit," he said. "Once we got here in July, we had that abbreviated training camp, and then all of a sudden you're playing regular-season games.

"And we had a lot of different iterations up front. You'd like to keep it at one. We had seven or eight and that's tough. It's tough to have consistency when you have inconsistency among who's starting."

Despite the O-line's ups and downs, Van Roten detected improvement over the 16 games.

"It was a slow start for us, but you look at each game individually and guys grew into their roles," he said. "They started playing better, I think, toward the end of the year. We were definitely a more cohesive unit.

"It was our first year. Next year you want to be a whole lost better than your first year. That's not just positionally, that's the NFL. Your first year together, all right, there's going to be growing pains. But the second year they expect a lot. You should make a big jump. So that's what the goal is going into year two is making a big jump and being a dominant unit."

And a better line helps the quarterback and the offense play better, which leads to wins and hopefully puts fans rather than two-dimensional color cutouts of fans back into the seats at stadiums around the league. Some of those fans will be people Van Roten is quite familiar with.

"Hopefully it's not something we have to continue to do going forward," he said of the no or low attendance at the games in 2021 because of ongoing COVID concerns, "and next year will be a year where my parents can come watch me play home games at MetLife Stadium as a New York Jet."

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