New York Jets: Connor McGovern welcomes an old rival

Connor McGovern, jets

New York Jets blocker Connor McGovern is ready to let bygones be bygones with incoming pass rusher Shaq Lawson.

New teammates Connor McGovern and Shaq Lawson appear to have resolved their differences over a pint…of Gatorade.

McGovern, set to enter his second season as the New York Jets’ primary center, is all too familiar with Lawson, the newest metropolitan pass rusher. The pair wore different colors during a fateful encounter in November 2019, when Lawson’s Buffalo Bills demolished McGovern and the Denver Broncos in a 20-3 shellacking in Orchard Park. Lawson played a major role in the victory, earning two sacks in part of a Buffalo defensive effort that allowed only 134 yards on the chilly afternoon.

After the game, cameras from WROC-TV captured Lawson confronting McGovern during the postgame scrum on the field.

“You remember my name, I had two sacks on your a**!” Lawson tells McGovern before being ushered away by then-teammate and McGovern’s fellow Missouri alum Mitch Morse. “I got two sacks on your a**, you remember me now!”

The Jets confirmed on Monday that they acquired Lawson from the Houston Texans in exchange for a sixth-round pick that originally belonged to San Francisco (obtained through a trade for linebacker Jordan Willis). McGovern was naturally asked about the transaction when he spoke after the Jets’ week-opening practice.

Fortunately for the Jets, McGovern said that the situation was resolved long before Lawson’s NFL passport was stamped with the Jets’ green oval. There was a prime opportunity to do so, as their new destinations…McGovern as a Jets and Lawson as a Miami Dolphin…gave them a prime opportunity to make amends.

“We played each other twice last year. It was all cordial,” McGovern said on Monday, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “I’ve played him since then and nothing. It was just playing any other opponent. It’s game time. Everybody’s in the moment and what have you.”

“We talked after the last two times we played each other. That video is from two years ago,” he continued. “The last two times we played each other. It was fine. I think we actually laughed about it when we played down in Miami last year.”

McGovern had far more positive affairs to speak of on Monday, as he enthusiastically expressed his anticipation for the coming season. He’s particularly excited about working with the new schemes implemented by offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, believing he’s a perfect fit for what the former 49ers overseer is trying to accomplish.

“Personally, I feel like I’m confident in saying I’m built for this scheme,” McGovern said, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg. “I feel like I’ve had a really good camp, playing at some of the highest levels I’ve played at. Definitely a step up from last year, a huge step up from last year, and even another step up from two years ago. I’m looking to have, personally, a good year and I think this will be a phenomenal year for the Jets and especially the Jets offensive line.”

McGovern was part of the Jets’ blocking reformation last offseason, one of the rare metropolitan acquisitions guaranteed a second year under his contract. The former Bronco endured a roller-coaster season though he was the only New York blocker to appear in all 16 games. No Jet, in fact, played more snaps in 2020 than McGovern’s 969 during the woebegone 2020 campaign.

The center admitted that he “didn’t play as well as (he) wanted in 2020”, per Greenberg. But the hiring of Robert Saleh helped him regain his confidence going into the new season, describing the Jets’ new boss as a “leader of men”.

“He doesn’t think that Xs and Os win football games. He knows players win football games,” McGovern said of Saleh, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “He’s the kind of guy that’s going to motivate everybody. He makes it simple enough where we can play fast and play incredibly effective but not so simple that it’s easy to beat. He’s a head coach that I’ve always wanted to play for.”

McGovern is once again expected to take a starting role on the offensive line when the Jets open their regular season on Sept. 12 against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Why the New York Jets must draft offensively at No. 23

New York Jets

It’s a foregone conclusion that the New York Jets will draft a quarterback at No. 2. But what will they do with their latter Thursday choice?

If this is the most pressing of problems the New York Jets have for the remainder of 2021, they’ll be one of the most, if not the most, blessed teams in all of professional sports.

The Jets have a welcome dilemma when the first round of the NFL Draft is held in Cleveland on April 29 (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). They’re one of a handful of teams with multiple first round picks, first choosing in the second slot before reaping the fruits of the Jamal Adams trade at 23rd overall. Though the second pick is more than likely spoken for…barring a jaw-dropping pre-draft surprise, the Jets will undoubtedly be taking a quarterback…there’s a major decision to be made in the latter station, a place where this draft’s predictability should be long gone.

When you’re a team like the Jets…coming off a two-win season, one even more brutal than this star-crossed franchise’s usual standards…

 Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Make the quarterback as comfortable as possible

When it comes to the second overall pick, the Jets have answered the question of what. Unless they plan on starting James Morgan, their 2020 fourth-round choice who has yet to wear an NFL game jersey, they’re drafting a non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback, be it Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or an unknown third party.

Whoever it is, he’s going to need help, whether it’s through protection or weaponry (more on each of those in a minute). One of the things that doomed Sam Darnold’s New York career was the lack of stability on his end of the ball. By the time his third season began, no receivers from his rookie season (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) remained on the New York roster and his starting offensive line was completely different from even the year prior. The Jets need homegrown talent to help their new, young franchise man get used to the NFL game in a hurry.

The draft is also a more attractive option for the Jets to find offensive help because their last few big-ticket offensive arrivals from elsewhere (i.e. Le’Veon Bell) haven’t worked out. If they can build through the draft…and there’s a prime opportunity with 21 picks over the next two years…they can lay a foundation and rebuild a winning culture.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Big plays are here again

So the Jets need offense, but that decision begets a decision: should they take a box score contributor or build the wall in front of Wilson/Fields/Other?

In the case of the former, it’s been a while since the Jets have had a truly explosive offense. It’s only been five seasons since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker put up dueling 1,000-yard tallies during the bittersweet 2015 campaign, but that might as well be an eternity in football years. Making matters worse is that the Jets made little effort to keep Robby Anderson, the closest thing they had to a consistent playmaker. He posted career-best number in Carolina last season and now reunites with Darnold.

The Jets have assembled a decent core of veterans with Corey Davis and Keelan Cole joining the fray alongside incumbent slot man Jamison Crowder and sophomore Denzel Mims. But while drafting Mekhi Becton was a move no one could truly quarrel with, the Jets passed on name-brand receiving talent like Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and future All-Pro Justin Jefferson. This supposed sin can be rectified at No. 23, where names like Rashod Batman, Kadarius Toney, Terrace Marshall, and Tutu Atwell should all be available. Sure, the receiving class is deep enough that the Jets could find a receiver at No. 34…the second pick in Friday’s drawings…but the lack of offensive firepower has reached crisis levels in New York. Over the past five seasons, have the Jets have reached the four-touchdown/extra point plateau in 16 games, a mark besting only four teams (Chicago, Washington, Denver, and the Jets’ blue roommates in East Rutherford). That lack of production is ridiculously unsustainable in today’s NFL, and it shows: that group, including the Jets, has failed to win a playoff game over the last half-decade.

Many have theorized that the Jets could take a running back in the slot, but the Jets have resolved that issue, if only temporarily, through an affordable one-year deal with Tevin Coleman and a trio of young projects (La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams). Besides, the recent first-round running back crop…especially when it gets to the later stages has shown it’s not worth it, at least not for their needs. It’d be great to bring in a, say, Rashaad Penny (drafted 27th by Seattle in 2018), but they can’t afford to use a first-round pick on a reliable spell option with a first-round pick. If they do address rushing, a power option like Rhamondre Stevenson could be a valuable latter-day steal.

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton
Credit: Joe McManus

Continue Construction

General manager Joe Douglas has had a small habit of having his football cake and eating it too, even if the dessert isn’t fully baked yet. When he took Becton with his first draft pick last season, he filled the big-play receiving potential slot with Mims, a Big 12 star from Matt Rhule’s Baylor Bears.

This offseason, Douglas has noticeably improved the team’s offensive chances through skilled talents that should at least keep fantasy football players’ eyes on Jets games (Davis, Coleman, Cole). He addressed the defense as well through 4-3 talents that will fit the preferred scheme of Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich. But the Jets remain understaffed on their blocking despite Douglas opening his checkbook for Connor McGovern, George Fant, and Greg Van Roten. Their quarterbacks were still on the run and little has been done to rectify that this offseason. Dan Feeney is high in personality but low on analytical rankings. Corey Levin hasn’t partaken in a regular season game since 2018.

Thus, it might help to continue building their fortress around the new thrower and improved rushing attack. Blocking draftees rarely send the draft parties into a frenzy…legendary blocker D’Brickashaw Ferguson was booed by a fanbase lusting after Matt Leinart…but no one’s complaining when the quarterback has time and the rushers have room to move.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Connor McGovern rips those calling for tanking

New York Jets

The New York Jets’ blocker hasn’t taken kindly to those hoping for the team’s intentional demise to secure the top draft pick next spring.

Over the final three weeks of a dreary 2020 season, the New York Jets (0-13) are going to try and win a game…whether their fans like it or not.

So scorned have Jets fans been by this season from the depths of the football underworld that some vocal legions have taken to openly rooting against them in hopes of securing the top overall pick in next spring’s draft. The Jets currently “lead” the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12) by one game in the race for the top pick, who is widely believed to be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. 

Neither team appears destined for a win during Sunday’s Week 15 action, as the Jets head out west to battle the Los Angeles Rams (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox) while Jacksonville heads to Baltimore to face the Ravens (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Both Los Angeles and Baltimore are in the thick of their respective conference’s playoff chase and are thus heavily favored. 

Jets blocker Connor McGovern, however, isn’t playing into any draft hype. The 2020 acquisition, in fact, had some harsh words for any Jet fan looking ahead to Lawrence-inspired antics and openly rooting for their squad’s demise.

“I don’t put my body through this, I don’t think anybody on the Jets puts their body through it, to lose,” McGovern said this week, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “It might be easy for somebody sitting on the couch, eating pizza, chips, and dip, to say they should keep losing, but if they’ve ever strapped the pads on, that sounds like an impossible thing for me to do. I’m going to do whatever I can to win.”

McGovern, 27, has been a rare beacon of green consistency as the only Jets’ offensive starter to begin each of their 13 games to date, despite dealing with a hamstring issue for a good portion of the year. He is one of the rare offseason acquisitions whose status for next year is relatively safe, as his contract was the only veteran deal the Jets signed that doesn’t include a potential 2021 out. Formerly of the Denver Broncos, he has yet to partake in an NFL playoff game, a streak that will obviously continue this season.

New York Jets, Connor Mcgovern
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nonetheless, don’t expect the Jets’ lost season to prevent McGovern from doing anything he can to add to the left side of their standings columns.

“Honestly, I think it’s been a good growing year for me,” he said, per Joyce. “I’ve seen a lot of personal growth, starting off a little bit rougher than I have from the past and playing at a much higher level here in this homestretch and being the player the Jets paid me to be and hopefully more than the Jets paid me to be.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags