Jets Camp Preview: Will Offensive Line Begin to Impose Its Will?

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Joe Douglas started 45 games at tackle for the University of Richmond and the Jets’ new general manager was an All-Atlantic 10 selection during his playing days. He remains an offensive lineman at heart as Douglas has talked of football being a “game of wills.” He wants to be strong up front along both lines and the Green & White will enter the 2019 season with two new OL starters from opening day last fall plus a new position coach in Frank Pollack.

“Like every team I’ve been with, it’s a work in progress. There’s a lot to get better at,” said Pollack, who served in the same capacity last season with the Bengals, this spring. “The guys are working really hard, we’re right where we need to be as far as that’s concerned. We’re continuing to master Coach Gase’s offense and increase our ability to work on our fundamentals and techniques that I’m teaching.”

Throughout OTAs and two minicamps, Pollack’s group matched up with a talented and deep defensive line. But with training camp only two weeks away, real football is around the corner.

“You can see movement skills, you can see how they learn and how they work,” Pollack said. “You get a good feel for all of that stuff, but at the end of the day, once you put the pads on, it really separates the men from the boys, if you will. You get excited about guys’ movement skills, but a lot of guys go away when you put the pads on and a lot of guys rise to the occasion when you put the pads on. You get a good feel for them and how they work in the classroom, understanding the offensive processing. But pads is definitely the most important aspect of that.”

The Bodyguard
After the Jets traded for Kelechi Osemele in March, the former Raider hit up Sam Darnold and told the second-year passer that he intended to be his new bodyguard. The 30-year-old Osemele, entering his eighth NFL season, was originally a second-round pick of the Ravens in the 2012 NFL Draft when Douglas was working as a college scout in B-More. Osemele was a Pro Bowl performer in 2016 and ‘17, but toe and knee injuries limited him to 11 games last season. After a ketogenic diet and some intermittent fasting, Osemele arrived in New York in excellent shape and with a monstrous chip on his shoulder. The mauler takes over at left guard and he will be the guy to watch in terms of tone-setting in practice.

“This is a very mature group. A lot of these guys have been starting for a long time already, so there really isn’t any pressure for me to be anybody’s big brother to babysit,” Osemele said. “Guys are professionals and we have a lot of guys who are trying to come into some bigger contracts and want to do well for themselves. And there are obviously guys that want to play at a Pro Bowl level. Everybody has an accountability and something that they’re trying to accomplish on this line, so we’re pretty self-sufficient and self-motivated, and we’re pretty driven.”

Opportunity at Center
Jonotthan Harrison started eight games at center for the Jets in 2018 and he ran with the first-team offense all spring. The 6’4”, 300-pounder, who has 32 career starts and 68 appearances on his resume, is an athletic lineman intent on becoming a fixture in the lineup.

“He’s extremely smart. He does a great job, his energy level and just keeping the tempo going for that group,” Gase said of the University of Florida product. “If you watch him, you can tell those guys really follow his lead. He has a very good way about him as far as setting the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage, getting those guys ready, getting their hands in the dirt, making the call and being decisive. All those little things are very valuable at that spot and I think he’s done a good job of that.”

See the Best Photos of the Jets Offensive Line

Constant Evaluation
Both left tackle Kelvin Beachum and right tackle Brandon Shell enter the last year of their contracts and the team added depth behind them with the drafting of Chuma Edoga. Brent Qvale, who appeared in 60 contests for the Green & White from 2015-18, re-signed in March and veteran guard Tom Compton was added in free agency. Douglas will continue to tinker with the roster throughout the year and that will include his former positional group.

“The hunt never stops for players,” Douglas said. “We have the No. 3 claim in the waiver order. We’re going to use that to our advantage. We’re going to comb every waiver wire that comes out. The draft and unrestricted free agency are some of the highlighted avenues, but I think there’s many more. We’re excited to get together in training camp, we’re going to go through every waiver wire comes out. When we get to training camp we can’t wait to start evaluating these preseason games.”

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