Joe Douglas laid out his plan for the Jets the day he was introduced as the team’s new general manager.
“This is a testament and we will try to build a team that can impose their will on other teams,” Douglas said that day. “To do that, you have to be strong up front, not just the offensive line, but the defensive line.”
Two years later, Douglas is still searching for the right ingredients on the offensive line. His latest turn came on Friday when the Jets agreed to a one-year deal with free agent tackle Morgan Moses. This move drew praise from most people as Moses is an upgrade over George Fant, last year’s start on right tackling. But Moses is 30 years old and was just dumped by Washington.
Adding a big-name veteran has not worked in recent years for the Jets along the line. Douglas ‘predecessor, Mike Maccagnan, tried it with a prey for Kelechi Osemele, who jumped in the Jets’ faces after just three games in 2019 with injuries and a subsequent fight. That same year, Douglas Ryan Kalil lured out of retirement with a $ 8.4 million one-year contract to play center, and the experiment failed miserably.
Correcting the offense has been a top priority for Douglas, but it has proved elusive, partly due to talent and partly due to injury. The Jets have had 17 different offensive line combinations over the last two seasons.
Douglas inherited a unit from Osemele, Kelvin Beachum, Jonotthan Harrison, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell. Everyone was gone before the 2020 season when Douglas revised the group. He signed Fant (three years, $ 27.3 million), Connor McGovern (three years, $ 27 million) and Greg Van Roten (three years, $ 10.5 million) in free agency in 2020 to join Alex Lewis , which he acquired in a trade from the Ravens in August 2019, then signed again after the season.
None of these moves worked particularly well in their first season, and the signing of Moses is an admission that signing Fant was a mistake.
Where it looks like Douglas may have hit gold was in the 2020 draft when he selected Mekhi Becton with the overall pick No. 11. Becton had a strong rookie season with plenty of highlight blocks. He was dominant at times during the game and played well against some toppas rushers.
The biggest issue with Becton is durability. He missed two complete games and large portions of four others with injuries as a rookie. In the spring, he practiced once before a foot injury ruled him out for the rest of the OTAs and the minicamp. Becton’s weight is clearly an issue for the team and could be a struggle for him throughout his career.
Even with these questions, Becton seems to be a long-term star. The Jets are hoping they added another alongside him with the election of guard Alijah Vera-Tucker at No. 14 overall this year. They traded a lot to get up to get Vera-Tucker in the hopes that he can play alongside Becton on the left side of the line in the next decade.
The Jets are also hopeful that the new coaching staff can pay dividends along the offensive line.
It’s been years since the Jets have had a good offensive line. The days of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold have long been over. Last year, the Pro Football Focus Jets’ offensive line ranked as the 29th best in the NFL. It allowed 43 sacks and the urgent attack was non-existent.
The arenas of watching Sam Darnold’s development stunt as he ran for his life in many games are fresh for the Jets. Douglas knows the organization cannot do to Zach Wilson what it did to Darnold. That was clear in GM’s mind this offseason, and he added playmakers and protection for Wilson as he pushed other priorities (cornerback anyone?) Into the future.
Douglas showed that he remains committed to getting the offensive line straightened again with the signing of Moses, a negotiating stretch in the early summer that could pay off big.
It’s time for the Jets to start forcing their opponents their will, as Douglas promised, instead of being pushed around.