The Jets signing this past May of offensive lineman Nate Herbig probably only made notable waves in his native Hawaii.
Jets GM Joe Douglas, who was the Eagles' former vice president of player personnel, originally signed Herbig as an undrafted free agent in April 2019 and jumped at the chance to pluck the versatile Herbig off the waiver wire last May. And it certainly was a timely and necessary move as the Green & White have played musical chairs on the offensive line through five games.
And much like his linemate Alijah Vera-Tucker, Herbig has experience playing guard and tackle, and on the left and right side. Herbig played three seasons at Stanford, making 6 starts as a freshman at left guard. The next season, he made 13 starts at right guard. As a junior, he played both right tackle and right guard.
Since coming to the Jets and after sitting out the first three games of the 2022 NFL season, Herbig has taken 100% of the snaps on offense against Pittsburgh and then Miami. In the game against the Dolphins, veteran Duane Brown played for the first time this season and the Jets trotted out their fifth O-line combination in five games. It meant another move for AVT, to right tackle (his third different position in three weeks), next to Herbig at guard.
"He's unreal," Herbig said, referring to Vera-Tucker. "He's getting all this praise, but I think he deserves more. People don't realize how hard it is [to change positions], but he doesn't blink an eye. He's truly special. You just don't see what he's done very often."
Herbig has played "clean" games both times out this season, solid performances that have not gone unnoticed by HC Robert Saleh. Against the Dolphins, QB Zach Wilson was pressured on 5 of 24 dropbacks, a 20.8% pressure rate that ranked fifth-lowest among qualified quarterbacks in Week 5. Neither Herbig nor AVT allowed a single pressure.
"I felt like Herbig did such a good job last week," Saleh said after the 40-17 victory over Miami, the Jets' first AFC East win in 13 games. "I love his mentality and how he approaches the game. He's nasty. He's everything you want in an offensive lineman. He probably smells bad, too. I'm just kidding Herbie. It's more of a testament to Herbie and forcing his way onto the football field and playing our best five."
See the top photos from Wednesday's practice leading up to the Packers game.
Herbig returned the compliment from his coach, saying that after three seasons in Philadelphia, he's enjoying "a super cool" environment and is "enjoying the moment."
"Coach Saleh man, he's a great coach," Herbig said as he prepared for the Jets' trip to northern Wisconsin (where his brother Nick plays linebacker in college for the Badgers) to face the Packers on Sunday. "Great guy, even better leader. A guy I love to play hard for. I love how he leads by example. His mentality is tough, physical. He makes you want to play harder for him."
So far this season, the only three constants on the Jets' offensive line have been AVT, left guard Laken Tomlinson and center Connor McGovern. And even with a scrambled offensive line, the Jets are averaging 4.1 yards a carry and have rushed for 6 TDs.
"Nasty Nate man, he brings a lot of attitude," McGovern said. "He's going to definitely go all the way to the whistle, if not a little bit past the whistle! He's a great dude. Great locker room guy. A lot of energy. He is really good at keeping it a little light. And he's a great addition. I've said it from the start, this room is a great room. Joe D. and Saleh building this offensive line room, it's been one of the best rooms I've been around talent wise, personality wise. And it's fun to go out and work really hard and reap the benefits with this group. It's a fun group."
The versatility of AVT, certainly, and Herbig gives Saleh, OC Mike LaFleur and O-line coach John Benton the luxury of being able to move pieces around as necessary. And this season, it has been necessary -- but also surprisingly successful, which speaks to the quality and skill of the guys in the trenches.
"It's an absolute pleasure," Herbig said of the O-line room. "I have to elevate my game. Duane, Laken, as great as they are, not to mention AVT, wow I have to step it up and play better."
So far, he's doing pretty darn good.