For much of training camp, offensive line issues made it tough for the Jets to truly feel relieved with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Left tackle Duane Brown was on the PUP list for much of camp. Rookie center Joe Tippmann struggled early. Max Mitchell and Billy Turner couldn’t hold their own at right tackle. Mekhi Becton’s trajectory was unknown.
Now, the Jets seem to have it figured out. Brown is back to play left tackle, Becton impressed enough to earn the right tackle job, and the interior will be made up of guards Laken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker along with center Connor McGovern.
All seems to be well. But should the Jets, in the words of their quarterback, “R-E-L-A-X?”
This is a unit that seems set for now, sure. Head coach Robert Saleh wanted the best five guys to start and it seems he got that for Monday night’s season opener vs. the Bills. But who’s to say it will remain that way?
Brown just turned 38, has an injury history, and is coming off shoulder surgery. One tweak could force the Jets to look to Mitchell or Turner for the blindside role or even kick Becton over to that side.
And speaking of Becton, the former first-rounder played well in camp and the last preseason game at right tackle. But the upcoming 17-game slate won’t be anything like that. He’ll need to face Buffalo’s Gregory Rousseau and Leonard Floyd right off the bat. Becton struggling could force the Jets to reconsider their decision to promote the youngster.
On top of that, how do we know Vera-Tucker will remain healthy? He didn’t last year, missing 10 games due to a triceps injury. How do we know McGovern can be relied on? The Jets initially didn’t even look to retain him in the offseason. How do we know Tomlinson can remain consistent? He underperformed in his first season with the team.
Maybe the Jets got their five best guys and maybe the unit flourishes starting Monday night. And Rodgers is protected enough to maximize his talent and the weapons around him. That’s obviously the hope.
But one injury, one poor performance…basically anything could bring the offensive line down a dark path.
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