The New York Jets offensive line is beginning to take shape. They’re play has been so porous this summer that not even the Hard Knocks producers could gloss over it. Finally, reinforcements are on the way, specifically at offensive tackle. Duane Brown has been activated off of the PUP list, and Mekhi Becton is slated to start at right tackle for the Jets’ final preseason game in which all of the starters will play.
Talent is not in short supply for the Jets. They have one of the best rosters in the league with a ferocious defense and fast offense. Aaron Rodgers was brought in to be the finishing piece to get the Jets to their first Super Bowl since the AFL was still in business.
Rodgers wore out his welcome in Green Bay, and at first glance, he and the Jets appear to be as ideal of a match for New Yorkers as a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. However, the way that the bacon not being crispy enough can ruin breakfast, poor offensive-line play can result in the 2023 Jets season being unsatisfying.
What the Jets need most from Becton and Duane Brown is health. If they are not both on the field for the overwhelming majority of the season, the Jets will not be throwing the ball deep, therefore sucking the juice out of their offense.
Rodgers is going to turn 40 years old before the end of the regular season. He is nowhere near as mobile as he was when first drafted, and he has always been risk-averse. Rodgers is not going to sit in the pocket and get pounded all day trying to extend plays. If he is not taking the time for Garrett Wilson and Mecole Hardman to get downfield, the Jets will be wasting a wealth of speed.
Becton has missed 16 games in the 2021 season and all of 2022 with right knee injuries. He was selected 11th overall by the Jets in 2020. At 6 foot 8, weighing somewhere in the ballpark of 350 pounds, and athletic, he is an ideal offensive tackle. Still, the Jets declined to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract because he has failed to stay healthy. They have gradually ramped up his workload this offseason, and he looked outstanding against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday.
Brown is a seasoned veteran at left tackle with five Pro Bowl appearances and three all-pro honors. He might be a tad bit overseasoned though considering he is less than a year younger than Rodgers. Becton was supposed to be the Jets’ starting left tackle, but after his season-ending knee injury last August they had to scramble to sign Brown during camp. He suffered a shoulder injury, missed the first four games of the 2022 season, and basically played with one arm the rest of the way.
On paper, the Jets really do look like one of the best teams in the NFL. They have an embarrassment of riches on the defensive line, and skill-position talent that is a threat to score from any place on the field.
Only injuries should be able to keep the Jets out of the playoffs this year. If Rodgers misses significant time then this team is only marginally better than last year and they will finish last in the AFC East. If he stays healthy while Becton and Brown miss time, the Jets will still probably wheeze into the playoffs.
But that Super Bowl trophy that Rodgers said looked lonely on the first episode of Hard Knocks, will stay that way without the two big guys on the O-line.