This is one in a series of articles that will also appear in the New York Jets 2022 Yearbook, which will be published later this summer.
The much-venerated TV play-by-play man Keith Jackson had a favorite phrase for offensive linemen. He called them "big uglies." This year, the Jets have tweaked that moniker when it comes to their reinforced front line: Ugly is out. Big and beautiful is in.
"I think we all win because it all starts up front," general manager Joe Douglas said, adding that he and HC Robert Saleh "go back and forth, but we see it the same way. It all starts up front. This game is about protecting your quarterback and giving him weapons."
The protection part is where the line comes in, but it doesn't end there. Mike LaFleur's multifaceted offense, a dynamic mix of run game and pass game, demands versatility, speed and strength. The Jets O-line for the coming season is versatile, fast and strong.
The 2021 NFL season was a challenge from Week 1 at Carolina, when LT Mekhi Becton went down with what proved to be a season-ending injury. Showing his versatility, George Fant moved from the right side to the left, playing next to rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker. Connor McGovern was, and is, a rock at center, and although veteran Morgan Moses ended up leaving for Baltimore, one of the biggest acquisitions in free agency this year was guard Laken Tomlinson. The acquisition of Tomlinson means that AVT, who played multiple OL positions for USC, will move to the right side.
"Laken has been in the league a long time, playing left guard for a very long time," Saleh said. "AVT has shown flexibility in college, he played tackle, he played guard. He's got tremendous flexibility and he's still a young pup. We got a really good one."
Who plays where, as it applies to Fant and Becton, will be determined in training camp. Douglas has not only solidified the starting front five, but he's added to the depth and flexibility by drafting Max Mitchell and re-signing Dan Feeney. Chuma Edoga and Conor McDermott also return.
"Joe and his staff have done an unbelievable job bringing in new faces and now it's our job to develop them," Saleh said. "I know the focus has been to get the O-line better, and I feel like we've added some good pieces."