It doesn’t matter who the Jets play quarterback unless they get a stable offensive line

When Joe Douglas arrived at Florham Park in June 2019, he made it clear what he saw as the key to having a strong football team.

“It’s a game of will, and we’re going to try to build a team that can impose its will on other teams,” he said the day he was introduced as the Jets’ general manager. “To do that you need to be strong up front, not just the offensive line but the defensive line.”

The Jets’ defensive line was one of the strengths of the 2022 team.

The offensive line? That was another story.

What the Jets do at quarterback is going to be the biggest storyline of the offseason. But anyone who’s watched the Jets play week in and week out this season knows it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is unless the Jets get better on the offensive line and find a way to stay healthy.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas has long emphasized the offensive line but has yet to do it right during his tenure.
bill kostrun

Douglas has kept his word since that day in 2019 and he has invested heavily on the offensive line. He used two first-round picks on linemen (Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker). He signed a big-money free agent last year in guard Laken Tomlinson. He tried to plug holes with late free agent signings such as Duane Brown and Morgan Moses.

It didn’t work, but that’s not all about Douglas.

The Jets had incredible luck getting hurt along the offensive line. Becton has missed all but one game the past two seasons with two different knee injuries. Vera-Tucker looked like she was headed for a Pro Bowl, starting at three different positions this season, before a torn triceps ended her season in October. Brown and George Fant battled injuries all year.

New York Jets guard Alijah Vera-Tucker during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday, October 2, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Penn.  (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)
Alijah Vera-Tucker’s promising second season ended prematurely with a triceps injury.
AP pictures

The Jets went through nine different starting lineups along the offensive line last season. They had four different starting left tackles, four different starting right guards and four different starting right tackles – and that’s not even counting Becton, who was the projected starter at right tackle before a knee injury in camp. practice ends his season before it begins.

It was just another brutal year in play for the Jets. They’ve had 24 different starting offensive line combinations over the past three years.

Douglas enters this offseason with a smaller list of needs than previous years, although the quarterback is written top in 80 points.

The Jets have decisions to make on this offseason program. Connor McGovern, who started every game at center, is a free agent, as are Fant, who entered the season as the starting right tackle, and Nate Herbig, who became the starting right guard after Vera- Tucker moved to tackle.

Douglas must also make a decision on how to take Becton into account. The 2020 first-round pick has lost a lot of weight and the memory of the ability he showed when he was healthy as a rookie lingers, but he was unable to enter the field for two years. Can the Jets count on him for one of the tackle positions?

Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton speaks to the media following the end of the 2022 season.
How much can the Jets count on Mekhi Becton for 2023 after two straight seasons blighted by injuries?
bill kostrun

Vera-Tucker has shown her ability to play left tackle and right tackle this season. Do the Jets slide him to right guard or keep him at tackle?

The only position that seems fixed is Tomlinson at left guard, but that’s because his contract locks him in there. He didn’t play very well in his first season with the Jets.

Any potential quarterback will probably want to know what the Jets’ plan is on the offensive line. Do you think Aaron Rodgers would be of interest to the Jets if their offensive line is a big question mark?

It’s early in the draft season, but I would expect the Jets to be projected to take a tackle with the No. 13 pick or even trade.

The Jets offensive line needs to start winning that game of will that Douglas talked about nearly four years ago. It’s time for him to find a fix for this offensive line.

This OC search may take some time

Jets coach Robert Saleh and former offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur laugh before the Jets' season finale against the Dolphins.
Jets coach Robert Saleh and former offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur
bill kostrun

The Jets’ search for a new offensive coordinator extends into its second week, and there are no signs the Jets are close to hiring anyone. The list of candidates is not the one that will inspire confidence.

That was one of the problems with Mike LaFleur’s firing. Finding a replacement was never going to be easy due to quarterback uncertainty and Robert Saleh entering a breakthrough third season. Coaches with options probably won’t choose the Jets.

That doesn’t mean they can’t find a good offensive coordinator. There are only 32 of these jobs. But they may have to take a leap of faith with another coordinator for the first time or hire someone who has just failed elsewhere. This is a critical hire for Saleh, and it looks like he will take his time making it. The coaches’ dominoes haven’t started falling yet. It could happen later this week. So maybe we’ll see which direction Saleh is going.

The statistics are so

New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) catches a pass past Miami Dolphins safety Jevon Holland (8).
Garrett Wilson caught passes from four different quarterbacks during an award-winning rookie season.

Jets rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson has put up big numbers and is one of the favorites to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Here are his stats this season when targeted by each of the Jets’ four quarterbacks:

Zach Wilson: 31 for 52 (59.6%), 430 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 78.2 odds

Mike White: 22 for 41 (53.7%), 353 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 88.8 rating

Joe Flacco: 28 for 51 (54.9%), 298 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 85.3 rating

Chris Streveler: 3 for 5 (60%), 17 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 66.3 rating

Source: Stathead

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