The New York Jets are off to an abysmal start offensively. Starting quarterback Zach Wilson has missed the first three contests with a knee injury. Backup Joe Flacco has been largely ineffective while playing behind a shaky offensive line. Flacco has been sacked on a startling nine occasions. With several injuries at the offensive tackle position, general manager Joe Douglas has received recent criticism for neglecting an opportunity to draft an offensive tackle with one of his three first-round selections in the 2022 NFL Draft. The current frustration surrounding the Jets is understandable given the expectations they entered the campaign with, but Douglas shouldn’t take heat for an unfortunate string of injuries.
The Jets currently have three starting-quality offensive tackles on IR. It began when former first-round pick Mekhi Becton suffered a season-ending knee injury during a practice in early August. Becton was expected to start at right tackle while receiving one final opportunity to prove he’s capable of reaching his pre-draft ceiling (and the form he briefly flashed in 2020). Becton’s injury placed the Jets in a precarious position before the season even began, but Douglas responded to the unforeseen adversity in impressive fashion.
Douglas replaced Becton by signing veteran free agent offensive tackle Duane Brown. Brown took a multi-day visit to the Jets’ facilities before agreeing to terms on a two-year contract worth $22 million. Brown earned himself an acceptable grade of 71.5 from Pro Football Focus last season. The aging Brown qualified as an excellent fill-in for Becton. The plan was to start Brown at left tackle while moving George Fant to right tackle. It wasn’t to be. Brown suffered a shoulder injury in September and was placed on IR before New York’s Week 1 contest against the Baltimore Ravens. The bad luck continued.
Brown’s injury forced Fant to make his second position change of the offseason. Fant returned to manning the blindside at left tackle while rookie fourth-round selection Max Mitchell was catapulted into the starting gig at right tackle. Fant has been shockingly poor. Through three contests, Fant has given up three sacks and been whistled for four penalties en route to a 42.1 pass-blocking grade, via PFF. Fant, who possesses a solid league-wide reputation for being a quality starter, has been a shell of himself. Fant has now been placed on IR with a knee injury. The underqualified Conor McDermott is now expected to start at left tackle in Fant’s absence.
That marks three offensive tackle starters on IR. The Jets will be on their fourth offensive tackle combination since August during this weekend’s Week 4 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mitchell has essentially been thrown to the wolves as a raw small-school prospect that required time to develop in practice before starting NFL contests. Three injuries have forced the Jets to abandon that plan.
Douglas couldn’t have possibly foreseen this. It’s precisely why Douglas passed on an opportunity to draft Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu with the fourth overall selection, instead opting for cornerback Ahmad Gardner. A third tackle prospect (Charles Cross) was drafted one pick before the Jets selected wide receiver Garrett Wilson (who’s off to an incredible start, by the way).
Douglas has invested plenty into his offensive line since becoming the Jets’ chief-decision maker. He’s spent two premium first-round selections on offensive linemen (Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker). The offseason additions of Brown and Laken Tomlinson should have helped the Jets field a serviceable offensive line. The football gods simply haven’t allowed it.
- Dec 09, 2022
- Dec 09, 2022