At nearly 37 years old and about to embark on his 15th season in the NFL, the Jets' newest left tackle Duane Brown has an enviable football résumé and roster of people he's crossed paths with.
To begin, Brown is from Richmond, Virginia's capital that has also produced GM Joe Douglas, and tackles Mekhi Becton and Morgan Moses. Drafted out of Virginia Tech by the Houston Texans in the first round (26th overall) in 2008, Brown encountered a young assistant coach by the name of Robert Saleh.
Speaking on Tuesday with reporters for the first time since signing with the Green & White, Brown, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who could have stayed in Seattle, said: "I think the Jets have a lot of young talent with potential. I worked with Coach Saleh in Houston early in our careers and I always had a lot of respect for him. He was quiet as an assistant back then, I was young and wasn't as vocal either. Before I got here, a lot of guys talked about how great he was. Along with a lot of potential here, what I can bring is my ability and veteran presence. I feel we can do great things."
When Brown got to Seattle (in a 2017 trade) he again got to encounter Saleh, by then the defensive coordinator with the 49ers, twice a season.
"Once he went to San Francisco, I saw what he was doing with that defense," Brown said. "I always talked to him after our games and I'm proud of how he's risen, and he has the same respect for me."
In addition to his link to Saleh, Brown played with tackle George Fant and cornerback D.J. Reed with the Seahawks. There's even one more link -- to Jets offensive line coach/run-game coordinator John Benton, who was the offensive line coach with the Texans when Brown first entered the NFL. Along with all those familiar faces and places, Brown said that he is in a comfort zone of experience from having played in the wide zone offensive scheme for years.
"It's the system I played in the first seven years of my career, and I've loved it because it fits my traits perfectly," Brown said. "One of my biggest assets is my athleticism and ability to run. The wide zone is about getting guys running and I've been fortunate to not lose that ability going into my 15th year. But you still have to go out and do it, but I feel great about it.
"Before I signed, I talked with George and D.J. and they told me how much they love the environment. And John Benton was my coach in Houston my first six years. So, this is a great fit to come here and it all makes it kind of seamless."
Speaking about his work all these years, he added: "You see everything, I've played against every defensive scheme, against every kind of rusher and seen everything slow down. You don't have to be able to bench 500-plus pounds, you can still identify things and be in position to pick things up, and that's what I try to pass along to guys."
See the Green & White on the practice field in full pads during week four at training camp.
The Jets' pursuit of Brown was one of the worst-kept secrets of training camp, even before the apparent season-ending knee injury sustained by tackle Mekhi Becton in training last week. Before Becton's injury, Brown was seen as a potential veteran backup along a strong offensive line, which, left to right, would comprise of Fant, Laken Tomlinson, Connor McGovern, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Becton (making the switch from the left side to the right). Now, of course, it is Fant, who played most of last season on the left side and was named the starter at left tackle by Saleh at the start of camp, making the move back to the right side.
"George and I have been great friends since Seattle and we've talked regularly," Brown said. "Since he's been here, I've been in communication with him. I have all the respect in the world for him. The situation, the way it's played out, has not been easy for anybody, but we've handled it great, and I'm grateful it was not awkward for us. We're friends before anything.
"And I think this line has the potential to be a really great one. Laken is very physical, I played with him in the Pro Bowl. It was my first time meeting him and we built a quick rapport. AVT is a young kid with a lot of ability, good hands. We're a mix of young and veteran guys with a ton of ability. The scheme is about continuity and communication, and we have a chance to be great."
Since joining the Jets in training camp, Brown has been working on his fitness on the side. He has not taken any reps, nor will he during this week's joint practices with Atlanta, which means he won't play in Monday night's preseason game against the Falcons at MetLife Stadium. It is expected that he will join regular team practices late this week or early next week.
"They go through all the physicals and all the different things, the checklist," Saleh said on Monday. "He played last year; he looked fantastic doing it. It's just a matter of clearing all the medical hurdles. Then just watching him in individuals today with trainers, he's fine.
"Obviously, like we said, the quarterback is the No. 1 guy you're trying to protect. Duane has been there, he's done that, he's still playing at a very high level. Even last year with Seattle, playing at a high level. He brings a wealth of experience, he's played in the system, so he knows what to expect, so there shouldn't be that much of a learning curve for him. Just his overall presence and everything that he stands for, his character, his work ethic, all of it will be a welcome addition to the room."