Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange, Caroline Hendershot and John Pullano will give their responses to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What is your level of concern with the Jets offensive line?
EA: Come Monday, the Jets' home opener vs. the Bills on Sept. 11 will be three weeks away. The Jets have one of the best rosters in the NFL although they are still figuring some things out up front along the offensive line. While you strive for continuity at each position, the calendar remains an advantage. The return of Duane Brown would be critical for a group that has worked with both Max Mitchell and Billy Turner at tackle throughout camp. Brown, who was voted "Selfless Warrior" by coaches last year after playing with essentially one arm, is one of the most resilient players in the league and continues to work with trainers daily. The center competition certainly has grown tighter due to Joe Tippmann's improvement, but LG Laken Tomlinson's recent leg injury has necessitated a position switch by the rookie. Wes Schweitzer's step-in for Alijah Vera-Tucker (ankle) at RG the past couple of days could actually prove to be a benefit in the long run. And the Big Ticket, Mekhi Becton, continues to make strides. I'll be watching No. 77 Saturday night. The Jets overall depth is better and it's being tested, but there are reasons for optimism.
EG: The Jets will suit up in the regular season in under a month. There's still time, but the starting group needs to build chemistry with each other and QB Aaron Rodgers. The unit has been missing three starters in Alijah Vera-Tucker (ankle), Laken Tomlinson (leg) and Duane Brown (shoulder), who hasn't practiced yet this summer. Their presence alone will boost the offensive line. Brown played all of last season essentially with one arm and I think he'll be better this go-round in green and white after offseason surgery. At center, Connor McGovern has proven to be reliable at the pivot. He's started 48 games for the Jets over the last three seasons. If Robert Saleh, Nathaniel Hackett & Co. elect to start rookie Joe Tippmann at center, that speaks to the job he's done throughout camp. The X-factor, to me, is Mekhi Becton. Becton hasn't played in a regular season game in two years. The arrow is trending in the right direction for Becton, who was drafted in the first round in 2020. There's no question about his rare talent and if he's able to take the field, he could change the complexity of the line.
See the best photos of the Jets during Thursday's open practice at 1 Jets Drive.
RL: I'll side with Aaron Rodgers and say my level of concern about the OL is "pretty low" at the moment. That's not to say I can't get concerned quickly, like, say, after the Giants preseason finale. But my argument is that the Jets have four tackles on the roster who, when healthy enough, would rank from good to very good. Duane Brown thinks he'll be ready to roll and he was pretty darned good with a presurgical shoulder for 12 straight starts in '22. Max Mitchell was perhaps the surprise of the line with his handful of RT starts last year. Billy Turner is a tried-and-true 10th-year man who's been a starter his past five seasons, including those three 13-3 campaigns and two Rodgers MVP awards with GB from 2019-21. And the wild card is Mekhi Becton, who Saleh said Thursday, "He's going for it. It's the most confident I've felt in a while with him." My level of concern will rise if, once the season starts, the OL turns into last season's McGovern, Tomlinson and 3 Turnstiles. As Saleh also said, "Individually we have a good set of guys. All of 'em can play football." It's time to come together as five in the next 3+ weeks.
CH: I think Aaron Rodgers said it best, the Jets have time. OT Duane Brown has not returned to practice, Alijah Vera-Tucker is dealing with an ankle injury and Laken Tomlinson has not practiced this week either. While all those guys are missing, Billy Turner and Max Mitchell have been alternating between left and right tackle. Rookie Joe Tippmann has been taking reps at center and guard. Let's not forget about Mekhi Becton, who is increasing his rep count every game he plays and has said his goal is to be a starter for this team. The Jets have not practiced consistently with the same five guys in the same five positions and that will come with time. Training camp is a time to try different players at different positions and see what works best for the team. I think the offensive line will come together in time for Week 1.
JP: Fans should be cautiously optimistic about the state of the Jets offensive line. Despite unfavorable injury luck in training camp, the Jets boast a talented and versatile group with improved depth. Beginning with the center position, Connor McGovern has started every game but two for the Green & White in three seasons. Rookie Joe Tippmann, the Jets' second-round pick, has progressed quickly and began to take first-team reps in practice at center and guard. The guard group features Pro Bowler Laken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker, who HC Robert Saleh said has All-Pro potential at guard and Pro Bowl potential at tackle. At tackle, All-Pro LT Duane Brown is "getting closer," according to Saleh, after offseason shoulder surgery. The Jets also added 10-year NFL veteran Billy Turner in free agency. On top of that, second-year player Max Mitchell and former No. 11 overall pick Mekhi Becton have developed nicely during camp and taken reps at both tackle spots. The key for the Jets going forward will be injury luck.