New York Jets Position Group Grades: Offensive Line

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each position group within the organization and grade each group. This offseason, New York Jets GM Joe Douglas devoted both financial resources and draft capital towards improving one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Now, the Jets enter 2020 with a diverse group of both young talent, productive starters, and vets looking to establish themselves. With a lot of high potential guys, stable vets, and some key talent, let’s take a closer look at how this line grades out.

LT: Mekhi Becton

The mountain of a man joined the Jets as the 11th pick in this year’s draft. As part of the core group of top linemen, Becton is already considered to be a potential star. His unique combination of size and athleticism makes him a weapon in the run game. Not only that, but he’s a solid pass blocker. His lack of advancement in terms of detecting pass rush moves is worrisome, but it remains to be seen how ready he is to handle the top pass rushers in the game.

LG: Alex Lewis

Lewis was an aggressive and vocal leader in that offensive line room last year. Now he’s carved out a role on the roster and as a starter. Right now, his health for Sunday is questionable. In the short term, Lewis is classified as an average starter, but a strong season could earn him a long term role in the green and white.

C: Connor McGovern

The prized signing of the offensive line and my favorite new addition is the key man up front. McGovern is one of the most underrated centers in the game. McGovern is one of the least penalized linemen in football and one of the highest quality centers. His veteran presence and skill will add stability at the center of the line and contribute to the cohesiveness of the entire unit.

RG: Greg VanRoten

A lifelong Jet fan will be a starter from day one. VanRoten is just like Lewis. Both want to be here. Are fighting for a job next year and are quality linemen, but not superb. VanRoten is a poor pass blocker and a solid run blocker. If he can just hold his own as a pass blocker and provide stability, that will be a big asset. In the end, my hopes are mid-level for VanRoten this season.

RT: George Fant

Fant is not a crazy talented right tackle. He’s not going to be the reason this unit takes a big step up. However, Fant is built more like a tight end than a lineman. His athleticism is the best of any lineman on this team. His ability to fit into Adam Gase’s scheme and be a lead blocker is something that is a plus for the team. Still, Fant is unproven and the most worrisome of all the starting linemen, and I’m intrigued to see if he develops throughout the season or if the Jets turn elsewhere.

Bench: Josh Andrews, Cam Clark, Connor McDermott, Chuma Edoga & Leo Koloamatangi

This bench is not one that is loaded with talent. Instead, it’s loaded with guys who have the potential to come in and be an average filler if need be. They’re cheap and young linemen who provide a lot of versatility. Two guys to watch in this bunch are Clark and Edoga. Edoga was a starter in the past and could slot in for Fant if he struggles. The rookie, Clark has the potential to be a long term fixture on this line if given a shot.

Grade: B-

This line is still not proven or where it needs to be yet. The lack of in-game reps together is worrisome. Still, the talent is there and the competitive fire. This is a group that could outperform this grade. If they can be improved, they could be the reason this offense takes a massive jump. If they don’t, they could once again be the detriment of the team.

Should the New York Jets still be worried about their offensive line?

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

The New York Jets committed to the rebuild of their offensive line this off-season, which was a problem that general manager Joe Douglas had no choice but to address.

The Jets ranked 31st overall in offensive line efficiency, which attested to their struggles at the quarterback position. Their adjusted sack rate was 9.8% on the season, as they turned over nearly every starting position on the line.

Ultimately, the Jets need their offensive line to mesh quickly and hit the ground running in 2020. They cannot afford to have an inexperienced unit without chemistry. The Jets made five moves in free agency to shore up the line.

They re-signed left guard Alex Lewis, left tackle George Fant, center Conor McGovern, guard Greg Van Roten, and center/guard Josh Andrews. They spent a relatively modest $40 million on all of the players acquired. In addition, they drafted Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

Becton will likely slide in at left tackle, and Fant will move over to the right side. Overall, the Jets added nearly 2000 pounds to their offense of line. Interestingly, Andrews, Fant, and Van Roten were all undrafted free agents. Lewis and McGovern were later round picks. Becton is the highest of the bunch being drafted in the first round. A majority of their starters are overachievers at the NFL-level.

The new players added have 78 career starts, most of which are by McGovern over the last three seasons (36).

Overall, this unit has the potential to be solid, but they are also in a position to fall apart quickly. The majority of their players have minimal experience as starters or are average at best. McGovern made the transition to center years ago, and he solidified himself as one of the better options of the position given his new deal with the Jets. He was by far the best acquisition in terms of ready-talent. Van Roten is unpredictable, Fant is a solid run blocker but problematic in the passing game, and Lewis/Andrews are reserve options.

I believe a lot of the Jets’ success in 2020 relies on Becton, who will slide into a tough position with minimal experience against premium level talent at the collegiate level. Coming out of Louisville, Becton has faced off against some solid players, but his size might be an issue for him in the NFL. Stronger and faster pass rushers could expose his size and balance. However, he has exceptionally nimble feet for a player that’s 364 pounds. If he can adjust to the NFL quickly and protect Sam Darnold’s blindside, the Jets will be in decent shape moving forward.

The New York Jets could pursue Pro Bowl offensive guard Larry Warford

New York Jets, Larry Warford

You probably read that headline and thought, “Sheesh, how many more offensive linemen can this team sign?”. Quite frankly, Joe Douglas has spent loads of resources between draft picks and money towards fixing the offensive line. Although he’s done a great job, the New York Jets could add another offensive lineman who would turn the line into an above-average line. That lineman is the newly released 3-time pro bowler, Larry Warford.

Who is Larry Warford?

Larry Warford was a third-round pick by the New Orleans Saints during the 2013 draft. At 28 years old, Warford has started on the Saints offensive line since his inception into the NFL. He’s only missed a handful of games in that time, and he’s received three Pro Bowl nods in the last three years. Warford is a durable and talented guard. Had he hit the market at the start of free agency, he’d have been a hot commodity. Now, with the addition of Saints’ first-rounder Cesar Ruiz to pair with their other young offensive linemen, the Saints felt that Warford and his $12.9 million dollar cap hit (2nd highest next to Drew Brees) were not worth it anymore. Warford now faces a likely extensive market.

The New York Jets Should Target Him

As I previously mentioned, although the Jets overhauled their offensive line, you never say no to a Pro Bowler. The tackles and center position may be solidified, and the Jets may have established competition at guard, but Warford is an instant game-changer. His durability and leadership would make him an asset. If you release Brian Winters and allow Alex Lewis, Cameron Clark, and Greg Van Roten to compete for the other guard spot, then Warford can be a starter on the line.

The fact is, the Jets need to continue to improve and establish completion at a position that is still not all the way improved. Adding a Pro Bowler in his prime would take the Jets’ offensive line to another level.

New York Jets sign versatile offensive lineman Josh Andrews

New York Jets, Josh Andrews

The New York Jets have signed versatile offensive lineman Josh Andrews. Andrews was an undrafted free agent from Oregon State in 2014. He received interest from 3 teams and ultimately chose to join the Eagles. That Eagles team led him to Joe Douglas.

According to Andrews agent, he’s excited to reunite with Douglas in NY.

Who Is Josh Andrews?

Andrews played in Philly for four years and in Minnesota before he landed in Indy with the Colts. Andrews has never been a starter, but he’s had experience and never allowed a sack or been flagged. Joe Douglas wants versatile guys who can bring in competition for the line. The Douglas mentality is evident with this signing. Andrews will be a guy who will fight for a roster spot and fight to carve out a role. With so much turnover on the line, he’ll have a shot to earn starting reps potentially. More than likely, he will provide depth. He’s got a very high football IQ along with being a great athlete. Jim Schwartz said he would play on their scout team and go out of his way to diagnose weak spots on the defense and how they could make Fletcher Cox and other defensive linemen more productive. That level of IQ is something that can provide value to both the offense and the defense. Andrews is a solid depth addition.

What’s Next For The Jets?

The Jets continue to wait on Robby Anderson’s decision before allocating money elsewhere. The WR market hinges on the money Anderson locks up. The Jets plan A is to hope that Anderson re-signs on a solid deal that is fair for the team and Anderson, and then allocate money to more depth on the offensive line and the defense. The Jets issue is that signing Anderson will be to a deal within the range of $8.5 million to $12 million. That’s a lot of money to add to the payroll, which explains their reluctance to make deals before knowing his destination. Their plan B, if they don’t lock him down, will likely be Phillip Dorsett and aiming to add one or more playmakers in the draft and then allocating the money towards defense. Until he makes a decision, it is unclear exactly how much money the Jets will have to spend on other spots. Until then, expect more depth signings.

New York Jets add another blocker, welcome back LB Neville Hewitt

The New York Jets’ free agent spending spree continues over the weekend, as the team added another lineman and welcomed back a defender.

The New York Jets have continued to adjust their roster over the weekend. New York has agreed to terms with offensive lineman Josh Andrews and has re-signed linebacker Neville Hewitt.

Agent Brett Tessler confirmed that Andrews would sign with the Jets.

Andrews, a six-year NFL veteran, will reunite with Jets general manager Joe Douglas. It was Douglas, then the Vice President of Player Personnel with the Philadelphia Eagles, that helped give Andrews his first NFL opportunity. Andrews partook in two different tenures with the Eagles, first from 2014 through 2017 and then a stretch on their practice squad last season. Each of them partook in the Eagles’ victorious trek to Super Bowl LII.

The signing of Andrews appears to be one for depth. A Los Angeles native and Oregon State alum, Douglas has played 98 regular season snaps in his NFL career, including a career-high 61 with the Indianapolis Colts last season.

Andrews is the latest newcomer to the Jets’ offensive line, as the team previously added George Fant from Seattle and Connor McGovern from Denver. The team also brought back lineman Alex Lewis after acquiring him from Baltimore in a trade last summer.

Meanwhile, the Jets also opted to welcome back the veteran linebacker Hewitt, who is set to play his third year with the team. Hewitt set new career-highs with 75 tackles, five pass, deflections, three sacks, and two interceptions.

Formerly of the Miami Dolphins, Hewitt has risen to the occasion when injuries struck the defense over the past two seasons. He has put up 124 tackles and 4.5 sacks over his Jets career, which began when they signed him in March 2018.

Other Jets linebackers still up for free agency include Jordan Jenkins and Paul Worrilow.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags