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Jets Offensive Line Needs to be Better by 'All Means Necessary'

HC Robert Saleh: 'Once We Get That, It Will Open Up Everything Else'


Since the Jets hired Robert Saleh as head coach in 2021, the Green & White's defensive line has been one of the best in the business. After three seasons as defensive coordinator for the 49ers, he came to New York and instilled a culture centered around playing with high-effort and intensity, and it has yielded results.

As the Jets continue to rebuild their offensive line this offseason, Saleh wants to inspire the same mindset in their new-look front.

"It's about the strain," Saleh said. "It's about finish and it's about having that endless desire to get their job done by all means necessary. And I know it's hard. It is hard to play on the lines. D-line is so hard. O-line is so hard because you're just banging constantly, and you're asked to do things that the rest of the positions aren't asked to do. So, you have to be relentless and strain along the offensive line. Once we get that, it will open up everything else."

In Saleh's first season with New York, the Jets defense ranked 23rd in sacks and 29th in rush yards. Over the past two, they have finished top-10 in sacks and top-11 in rush yards allowed per attempt. The improvements, due to injury and inconsistent play, have not been quite as pronounced for the O-Line. Last season, the Jets played 13 different O-Line combinations and allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL.

During the 2024 offseason, GM Joe Douglas gave the O-Line a fresh coat of paint and signed Ravens LG John Simpson, All-Pro Cowboys LT Tyron Smith and traded for Ravens and former Jets RT Morgan Moses. RG Alijah Vera-Tucker, who tore his Achilles tendon in Week 5 last season is expected back in time for the start of the season and C Joe Tippmann, coming off a strong rookie season, will return. Despite a lot of new faces, Saleh believes this is the group that can elevate the room.

"Those are the types of guys we want man, they're relentless," Saleh said. "They don't want to let their team down; they just don't want to let people down. They've got pride for the name on the back of the jersey."

Smith, a first-round pick (No. 9) in 2011 by Dallas, spent 13 seasons with the Cowboys and earned 8 Pro Bowl selections, two first-team All-Pro nods and two to the second team. In addition, he was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-2010s team.

"He's so long and so athletic," Saleh said. "His feet, they move so well for a man his size. "He's got these 36-plus inch arms, which is ridiculous. He can get his hands on you in a hurry and lock you up, so combination of length footspeed and obviously, he just knows how to play the game."

The Smith signing, however, comes with questions about his age (33) and durability. Prior to starting 13 games last season, Smith played just 16 games from 2020-22. Saleh thinks they have the answers to getting the most out of the future Hall of Famer.

"We have been working on trying to figure out what's best for him," Saleh said. "We are gathering information from Dallas and whatever we come up with we're going to be excited about. But obviously, there will be constant communication with him and speaking with him. The man wants to practice, and the man wants to be on the field."

Moses, 33, played for Saleh in 2021 after being released by Washington following seven seasons there. After 2021, Moses played two seasons for the Ravens, started 32 games and allowed an average time to pressure of 3.39 seconds in that span, which is the fourth-longest by a right tackle, despite playing with a partially torn pectoral in 2023.

"Getting Morgan was awesome," Saleh said. "We had him for a year and realized a year wasn't enough, we want him back. Another one of those guys with elite character and elite presence. He has an old soul in that he's going to come to work every day and he is going to pack his lunchpail and go to work."

Simpson, 26, Moses' teammate in Baltimore, started 17 games for the Ravens last season after being cut by the Raiders. Last summer, Simpson won the training camp battle over rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and former third-round pick Ben Cleveland.

"I love [Simpson's] story and the adversity he had to fight through to earn a starting spot in Baltimore and he's still young," Saleh said. "He hasn't even scratched the surface of where we think he can go. And then Tyron, to get someone of his caliber, has proven he is one of the best pass protectors in all of football for a very long time so to get him here has been pretty cool."

The work will start for this group when offseason workouts begin on Monday (April 15), followed by the start of OTAs on May 20.

"There are 31 other teams that feel like they've knocked their offseason out of the park this offseason," Saleh said. "We've got to win games, and until we step on the field in September, all that matters I preparation."

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