Jets general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh have often echoed a phrase that might lead observers to think they are not only connected at the hip, but via the frontal lobe.
The phrase is short and to the point: Keeping the main things the main things.
And those "main things" are all about providing second-year quarterback Zach Wilson with a complete toolkit. On offense, a stalwart offensive line, a corps of dangerous wide receivers and a vibrant running game. On defense, a fire-breathing group on the DL looking to swallow up opposing quarterbacks, a bruising collection of linebackers and a defensive backfield that is a mix of youth and experience, is smart, aggressive and hungry for turnovers.
"It's about keeping the main things the main things, and it's going to be about helping develop our young quarterback," Douglas told reporters during a press conference one week before the start of the NFL Draft next Thursday in Las Vegas. "Outside of that, it's about adding as many difference makers as you can to the roster. And making sure they fit within the culture and the scheme. Then keeping those guys healthy and keeping them on the field."
In his first two drafts with the Jets, Douglas has drafted two offensive lineman -- Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker -- in the first round. In free agency, he signed George Fant and this year the All-Pro guard Laken Tomlinson. Center Connor McDermott re-upped with the Jets as did backup Dan Feeney.
"The offensive line is always going to be important," Douglas said. "The O-line and the D-line will remain our focus and this unit [the O-line] is vastly improved, especially over the past few years. With a guy like Tomlinson [and Vera-Tucker] we have one of the best, if not the best guard combinations in the league. George and Mekhi give us depth at tackle. Connor is coming back. We feel good about the O-line."
With the signing of Tomlinson, Vera-Tucker who played guard and tackle on both sides at USC, will flip to the right side. Likewise, Becton, who missed nearly all of the 2021 season, could again find himself playing next to AVT, but on the right side.
Asked if he thought the organization's braintrust had put too much emphasis on the offensive line, Douglas said: "I think when you're building a team, balance is important. You don't want to invest too much on one side of the ball. But at the same time, keep the main thing the main thing. I think we've been pretty consistent about the importance of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball."
And again, that "main thing" is keeping Wilson upright, protected and given enough time to cycle through his reads.
While it is crucial that Wilson be enabled to do his thing, Saleh and Douglas have been emphatic that there is a straight line between the play of the defensive line, the play of Wilson and the ultimate success of the Jets. When the defense keeps the Green & White in the game, there is less pressure on Wilson and the offense.
The return from injury of Carl Lawson, the addition of Solomon Thomas, the return of Vinny Curry and the continued development of players like Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers -- and the possible addition of another elite edge rusher (or two) in the draft -- will go a long way go presenting the Jets with an opportunity to play meaningful games in December."
"From a D-line perspective, this is a front that's an attack front," Douglas said. "Their job is really getting off the ball and disrupting the quarterback, disrupting the pocket. It's a huge thing for our team."
See the Green & White working out in the weight room during the first week of the offseason program at 1 Jets Drive.