The New England Patriots announced on Saturday that right tackle Trent Brown would not play in Sunday’s tilt against the New York Jets (1 p.m. ET, NBC).
Brown injured his calf on the first series of the Patriots’ opening weekend tilt against the Miami Dolphins. He’s in the midst of his first year in New England, having arrived through a trade with Las Vegas. Justin Herron and Yasir Durant appear to handle Brown’s reps in East Rutherford.
With Brown out, the Jets’ pass rush has an opportunity to raise some much-needed pressure on rookie quarterback Mac Jones. New York (0-1) struggled to make the Carolina Panthers’ backfield uncomfortable last Sunday in Charlotte. The Jets’ pass rush was expected to struggle after prized acquisition Carl Lawson was lost for the season. It mustered only a single sack against Sam Darnold and the Panthers. John Franklin-Myers was a welcome exception to the struggles, earning two tackles for a loss, including the aforementioned quarterback takedown.
Brown’s downgrade wasn’t the only New England transaction on Saturday as the hours countdown toward their visit to the Garden State: the team added defensive lineman Tashawn Bower and kicker Nick Folk to its active roster. Another kicker, Quinn Nordin, was placed on injured reserve.
As for the Jets, they’re likely to be without rookie linebacker Jamien Sherwood, who was labeled doubtful with an ankle injury. Receivers Keelan Cole (knee) and Jamison Crowder (groin) are questionable as is tackle Chuma Edoga (non-COVID illness) and Isaiah Dunn (shoulder).
The New York Giants offensive line was the biggest concern surrounding the team entering the 2021 NFL season. Question marks surrounded nearly every lineman in the unit. In 2020, according to ESPN, the Giants’ pass-block win rate ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. Despite this, the team made no major moves to upgrade their offensive line in the 2021 offseason until just this week.
With basically the same unit from last year carrying over, expectations were low for the Giants’ front line. In Week One, the Giants’ offensive line exceeded all expectations. The line was not the reason for the Giants’ offensive failures. The unit put together a good performance but needs to keep the momentum going in Week Two in order to prove that this first game was not a fluke.
New York Giants offensive line exceeds expectations
The New York Giants offensive line did a great job protecting Daniel Jones in Week One. Daniel Jones was kept clean on 74.4% of his dropbacks versus the Broncos, 2nd highest in his career (PFF). Granted, Jones and the offense did not have a stellar performance, but the blame seems to need to be placed on the play-calling, rather than the blocking.
According to ESPN, the Giants had the fourth-best pass-block win rate in the NFL in Week One. This is an astronomical improvement from 2020 when the unit ranked dead last in that regard.
In Week Two, the New York Giants will face the Washington Football Team and their ferocious, young defensive line. However, that frightening defensive front is coming off of a sluggish and disappointing performance in Week One. Washington recorded 2 sacks as Justin Herbert frequently found himself throwing in a comfortable pocket.
The Giants’ offensive line exceeded expectations while the Football Team’s defensive line failed to meet expectations. The Los Angeles Chargers totaled over 400 all-purpose yards against Washington on Sunday.
Washington’s defensive line is looking for a bounce-back performance. Inversely, the Giants’ offensive line is looking to string together two strong performances in a row and set the tone for their season. On Thursday night, this crucial matchup will take place and could decide the game between the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team.
New York Jets first-round pick Mekhi Becton spoke to ESM about the weeks to come and his new endorsement endeavors with Pepsi.
As the anchor of the New York Jets’ offensive line, left tackle Mekhi Becton already has some arduous tasks ahead of him on autumn weekends.
Thanks to a collaboration with Pepsi, however, Becton will not only be able to protect the stars of Gang Green’s revamped offense, but he’ll also have the time and ability to assist Jets fans in preparing their gameday snacks.
Days before the Jets open their 2021 season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS), Becton was revealed as the face of Pepsi’s new Jets-centered campaigns, entitled “Made for Jets Watching“. His participation is headlined by an augmented reality endeavor in which a mini version of the Jets’ first-round pick from the 2020 draft assists fans in conjuring up some Sunday recipes, including Pepsi BBQ Sauce, a dressing made with the official soft drink of the NFL.
“As fans across the country return to their favorite gameday watching and game day eating traditions this year, we’ve teamed up with the Jets to help fans unapologetically enjoy the experience all season long,” Kathy Kennedy, Sr. Director of Marketing, PepsiCo Beverages North America, North Division said in a company statement obtained by ESM. “Pepsi wants to give fans the magic of gearing up for game day no matter where or with whom they find themselves watching this season.”
Becton appears in Pepsi’s new league-wide campaign alongside other young talents like Jalen Hurts, Sterling Shepherd, Chase Claypool, and Sam Hubbard. Tenured veteran Devin McCourty and Hall of Famer rusher Barry Sanders likewise appear for their respective squads in New England and Detroit.
“Everything drew me to (this campaign),” Becton told ESM. “My parents they’re really big Pepsi fans and stuff like that. So I always grew up with it, with them drinking it and things like that. So it was just, it’s just a dream come true, honestly.”
With the season opener looming, Becton spoke with ESM about his new partnership and the upcoming trials and the Jets will face in the 2021 season…
Q: While this is an interesting and hopeful period on the Jets’ timeline, many choose to dismiss such hope as being a case of “Same Old Jets”. How is this team different from prior incarnations we’ve seen on this rebuild?
A: We’re really hungry, we’re a really hungry team. We go to work every day, we go hard every day. We have a lot of things ready to put on display and show the world. We’re ready to go out there and play, we’re ready to show the world what we can do. Our motto is “All Gas, No Brake”. I feel like that explains and defines us 100 percent.
(Robert Saleh) been really great. He brings the energy every day, he makes sure we’re bringing the energy every day. He’s just he’s a great guy, a great coach as well. He never sugarcoats things. He’ll always tell it how it is, so that’s already great to have.
Q: The team addressed its offensive needs in the first round through the selections of Zach Wilson and Alijah Vera-Tucker. What has it been like to work with them and almost guide them through the early stages of their NFL journeys?
A: (Vera-Tucker) goes to work every day, just like I go to work every day. He likes, he loves to work hard, and I like to work hard. So it’s just great to have two hard-working dogs on the same side and I’m excited about that.
As for (Wilson), he has been great, he’s a great player. He’s going to do a lot of things that a lot of people aren’t expecting him to do and I can’t wait for him to prove the world room. The fact that he was named a captain speaks a whole lot of volume about how he just he’s just a leader already. So it has just been really great, and I can’t wait for fans to see it.
Q: In addition to the rookies, the team added several veteran talents that know to win and contribute. How they helped this team and what impact have the defensive additions left on you, namely DE Carl Lawson?
A: It’s was great to have them here. Guys like Corey (Davis), Sheldon Rankins, C.J. Mosley, they can take control of the team when things are getting out of whack. They are always people that everyone always listens to no matter what they’re saying. It’s been really great and it’s very helpful as well, too.
Carl helped improved me a lot, just helping with my hands, and my feet, just making sure I don’t give up on a play because he’s still going 100 percent. So that definitely personally helped me out a lot.
Q: What stood out to you most about the New York culture when the Jets chose you last season? Was there any additional pressure considering they passed on several elite receiving talents to bring you in?
A: It was love at first sight. The fans are the best, they’re always going hard no matter what’s going on in the season. They’re very loyal and the city has great. Everything in New York drew my attention. I can’t wait to have the fans back in the stands, that’s going to be really great. I’ve seen a little taste of it at the Green & White scrimmage. and when we played Philly, when we played the Giants (in the preseason), Once we get to the regular season, it’s going to be really great and they’re going to be really happy.
I don’t think I had any additional pressure at all (after the draft). I wasn’t even I honestly wasn’t thinking about those (receivers). I was just trying to go out there and perform, no matter who they passed up on. I was just trying to go out there and do what I got to do.
Q: What’s the message you want to send out as a leader and representative of the new-look Jets and how big would it be to make a statement in these early contests against noteworthy opponents (Carolina & New England)?
A: It’d be really great to make a statement early on. A lot of people aren’t expecting us to do good things on the field. But everybody in the locker room knows that we can go out there and perform and do those things that people aren’t expecting us to do. So it’s going to be really great.
To the critics, all I can say is be ready. Just be ready. That’s all I can say. Just be ready. That’s all I’m going to say. Just be ready.
(Special thanks to Katherine Hartley for making this interview possible)
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).
Lewis, a fourth-round pick in Baltimore, was one of Joe Douglas’ first acquisitions of the Joe Douglas era.
Per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, New York Jets offensive lineman Alex Lewis has retired. Lewis had partaken in 24 Jets games, starting 21, over the last two seasons.
A fourth-round pick from the 2016 draft, Lewis was one of Jets general manager Joe Douglas’ first acquisitions. He came over from Baltimore in exchange for a seventh-round choice (that the Ravens eventually dealt to Minnesota) in August 2019. Lewis took over the starting left guard role after Kelechi Osemele’s departure and started the latter dozen games of the Jets’ 2019 campaign. His efforts were rewarded with a three-year, $18.6 million contract extension.
Lewis endured a tumultuous sophomore year in green, missing the final games of the year on the non-football injury list. Rumors of conflict with then-head coach Adam Gase emerged but were denied by Lewis himself. Cimini’s report states, however, that Lewis was displeased with the drafting of offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker in April. The Jets had traded up with Minnesota to select the interior blocker from USC. Lewis skipped offseason workouts but later agreed to a restructured contract. The new deal dropped his 2021 base salary by nearly $3 million, though he would be allowed to pursue free agency after the 2021 season.
The Jets placed Lewis on the exempt/left squad list a day after suffered a head injury in training camp on August 5. Such a designation precluded him from playing with any team this season. At the time, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said that Lewis was “going through some things which are much greater than football right now”, per notes from the team.
New York returns to preseason action on Saturday later afternoon against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).
As the New York Jets continue to seek clarity on the offensive line, an intriguing battle for snaps has emerged between two veterans.
Addressing the offensive line is the football equivalent of having a salad: no one wants to do it.
Everyone would rather have a tasty cheeseburger with a side of fries, downing it with a cold beverage…i.e. add a flashy skill player, one whose antics can become a staple in the pregame hype videos played on stadium videoboards. But, at the end of the day, the consumer knows deep down that adding a blocker or keeping up on their fruits and vegetables will lead to its long-term survival and prosperity.
The New York Jets indulged themselves for far too long. Prior to taking Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall choice of the 2020 draft…passing on several elite receiving talents…they had gone nearly a decade without choosing an offensive lineman within the first 64 picks (dating back to second-round tackle Vlad Ducasse in 2010). While the first round was mostly dedicated to defensive washouts (Kyle Wilson, Quinton Coples, Dee Milliner, Darron Lee), some of their second round choices saw them miss out on future NFL protection staples. Cody Whitehair went to Chicago seven picks pick after the infamous Christian Hackenberg selection in 2016. Aerial busts Stephen Hill and Devin Smith were respectively chosen ahead of Kelechi Osemele and Rob Havenstein.
The Joe Douglas era has seen the general manager attempt to atone for that negligence. Even if his moves haven’t fully panned out (i.e. convincing Ryan Kalil out of retirement, trading for Alex Lewis), the mere action was refreshing from a New York standpoint. Becton’s breakout, a rare silver lining of the woebegone 2020 campaign, was perhaps the first example of Douglas’ blocking blueprint yielding visible, on-field results.
“You guys know how I feel about the offensive line: it’s hard to have a good team without one,” Douglas said of the line during the 2020 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Few would know of the importance of winning a good trench battle better than Douglas, a two-time all-state blocker at Lee-Davis (now Mechanicsville) High School in Virginia before embarking on a lengthy college career at Richmond.
Jets offensive line needs help. New GM Joe Douglas is just the man to fix it. Eagles had one of the strongest OL in the the NFL. He's also played the position as a four year starter at Tackle for University of Richmond. pic.twitter.com/KepMhlrxe7
At the time of those comments, the Jets were looking to protect Sam Darnold as he entered his third year as the team’s franchise quarterback. Now, they’re fortifying their wall as the professional debut of last spring’s second overall pick Zach Wilson looms. Bolstering the line could also help awaken a run game that hasn’t finished in the NFL’s upper half since 2016.
The Jets continued their renovations on the blindside when they traded up with Minnesota to take guard Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC with the 14th choice. Vera-Tucker has dealt with a pectoral issue that will keep him out of Saturday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC), but should be ready for the Jets’ visit to Green Bay next week.
In the meantime, the right side of the unit faces an intriguing battle, one that has only intensified with the release of the Jets’ first depth chart earlier this week. While the opening positions are mostly solidified, one top slot stood out: not one, but two names resided in the right tackle’s role: George Fant and Morgan Moses.
It’s a battle of depth, a war of experience, one that serves as a strong monument to Douglas’ goals in the trenches.
Some assumed that Moses would automatically gain primary right tackle duties when he joined the as a late signing in July. The third-round pick from the 2014 draft (chosen 17 picks after the Jets took star-crossed tight end Jace Amaro out of Texas Tech) had established himself as one of the more reliable outside blockers during a seven-year career in Washington. He is a blocker who has stayed healthy, someone who had made himself a staple (he had been in the team’s starting lineup in each of the last 96 games) on a playoff team (Washington ended a four-year playoff drought with an NFC East division title last season). Such consistency, at least that of a veteran variety, hadn’t been seen in New York since D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold saw their final snaps.
Even though they are competing for the same job, George Fant and Morgan Moses working with each other here to help each other. pic.twitter.com/s4FSnhtetX
Yet, he wasn’t going into Florham Park assuming anything and that feeling hasn’t subsided as game day approaches. In fact, he welcomes and has appreciated the ongoing battle between him and Fant.
“Competition is everything for me,” Moses said this week, per Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press. “Nothing is given. Everything that I’ve worked for in this league since I’ve been in the league, I’ve earned. And that’s how I want it to be. I feel like if things are given to you, we take it lightly. I’m here to get myself better and try to make this team and make the offensive line better.”
Training camp has served as a solid reintroduction for Fant, who was part of Douglas’ blocking splurge during the 2020 offseason. The group endured an up-and-down endeavor as a whole but Fant showed he had lasting power in New York. His teammates voted him an offensive captain and appeared on 829 snaps with the group.
The Jets could’ve saved about $7 million if Fant was released this offseason, but they kept him aboard even with Moses in tow. His self-confidence was apparent in a reflection of the 2020 season published by team reporter Ethan Greenberg.
“I proved to myself and I feel like I proved to everybody else that I deserve to be in the league, (that I) deserve to be a starter in this league, and that I could play at a high level consistently,” Fant said in Greenberg’s report. “There are more things I want to work on, but I feel like that’s the number one thing. I needed that for myself, the confidence in myself and hopefully put that confidence in the team as well.”
In team notes, head coach Robert Saleh said that starters would play “a quarter, couple series” in Saturday’s metropolitan showdown. Right tackle reps will likely be split between Moses and Fant. Saleh said after Thursday’s practice that their matchup, equally sprinkled with intensity and professionalism, has been one of the most enjoyable parts of his first metropolitan training camp.
“It’s competitive, they’re two professionals,” Saleh said in further notes from the Jets. “I’m actually enjoying the fact that those two talk all the time about technique and they’re helping one another out, I think it’s pretty cool. They exemplify professionalism and it’s been fun to watch.”
The competitive respect between Fant and Moses has up with Saleh’s theme of respect, one that shockingly drew ire and annoyance on Fox Sports’ Speak For Yourself. The blockers’ battle has served as a perfect counterargument to the idea that the Jets have “no fire”, as analyst and former NFL defensive lineman Marcellus Wiley declared.
Instead, the two are making each other better for not only Saturday’s exhibition opener, but for a crucial 2021 season as a whole. Fant, signed one for one more season after 2021 while Moses is on a one-year deal, knows that the competition can also make him a better blocker for the future. If it makes him better immediately, the Jets’ new era of offense, headlined by youngsters like Wilson, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter, can get off to a strong start, one full of confidence for the road ahead.
“It’s a great opportunity to add depth to the team,” Fant said at the onset of training camp, per video provided by the Jets. “He’s a really good player, a great veteran to add to our room…That’s what this game’s all about. That’s what the NFL’s all about: you’re competing at all times.”
A relationship that spans both sides of the line of scrimmage could eventually lead to the New York Jets’ ultimate salvation.
After the chaos and fractures of the Adam Gase era, the New York Jets could use any semblance of unity going into a new era.
Ironically, however, it’s a daily training camp battle…one could even describe it as a war…that could lead to Gang Green’s long-sought salvation.
Mekhi Becton was one of the rare, consistent silver linings of the Jets’ woebegone 2020 season. He more than justified management’s faith in passing on several elite receiving talents in the virtual draft, bring clarity to a blocking situation that was long neglected. Upgrading the offensive line is a job that nobody wants to do, but remains drastically vital.
In essence, the Jets bought themselves plenty of flashy, expensive gifts from both the veteran and rookie markets, personified as metaphorical luxury sedans for the driveway. (i.e. Le’Veon Bell, Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Trumaine Johnson). But in that process, they ignored the mold damage in the basement that would bring the entire structure down entirely. No matter who lined up under center, he was going to need protection. Becton did what he could to end the Sam Darnold era on the right note and earned the right to be the anchor of the age of Zach Wilson.
“He truly cares and he truly wants to help. I think he is a player that is going to help us long-term,” Joe Douglas said of his first pick as the Jets’ general manager back in November, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg. “We’re excited about working with him every day because you’re talking about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart, he’s tough as nails and has a rare size and athleticism.”
“He’s just scratching the surface of what he can do physically. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be, so we’ve made it our mission to sort of bend over backward to try to help him reach his goals.”
Becton’s short-term reward? A daily summer battle with one of the NFL’s most promising pressure artists.
The emergence of Carl Lawson, as has been discussed all offseason, isn’t visible through conventional numbers. That makes it perhaps all the more appropriate that he and the Jets found each other through a $45 million contract that lured him away from Cincinnati. The Jets’ silver linings and aspiring NFL staples (like Becton who, frankly, has little if any conventional numbers to fall back on as an offensive lineman) were likewise removed from the mainstream NFL conversation. Lawson instead made his mark through lesser celebrated stats like quarterback knockdowns and “sacks created“, tying for the league lead in the former with Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt.
Granted the most expensive contract of the Jets’ busy offseason, Lawson is expected to be a difference-maker in the team’s return to football relevancy. So far, he’s living up to the hype in an admittedly minuscule sample size.
“He hasn’t been stopped yet,” fellow incoming defensive lineman and Georgia high school football competitor Sheldon Rankins said of Lawson, per team reporter Jack Bell. “It’s what I expect having known him dating back to high school.”
Much like the stigma Becton has to beat on the offensive line, Lawson is also looking to end some dubious New York pass-rushing history: no Jet has earned at least 10 sacks in a season since Muhammad Wilkerson tallied a dozen in 2015.
With the Jets preparing for what’s projected to be a developmental season that can nonetheless yield positives, fans have reveled in the intense clash of a different brand of New York giants. Their get-togethers are part of new head coach Robert Saleh’s demand for increased intensity in the trenches, where he believes games are still decided.
“On the interior where those guys are getting true genuine work, (we’re getting) some one-on-one’s going…it’s going to be exciting to see those guys progress,” Saleh said as padded practices got underway, per notes from the Jets. “The thing that you’ll hear us talk about, you can never have enough good O-linemen and D-linemen…The game still is won in the trenches.”
To that end, Saleh has added himself to the list of those who can’t enough of their antics. It’s one training camp fight he’ll refuse to break up.
“It’s like the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size,” Saleh said. “Carl is not going to see a man that big, and Mekhi is not going to see a man that small and sawed-off, and as strong as he is. For those guys to get that work, they’re making each other strain in different ways that they’ll see all season.”
Training camp battles and later in-season injury woes failed to afford Becton consistent competition in his first New York practices. This year’s battles against Lawson, a new kind of crossover summer blockbuster, have proven both humbling and beneficial.
“He’s got a lot of speed and power. He does, like, this power spin that’s really tough. He’s a great rusher,” Becton said in another report from Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press. “It’s helping me a whole lot because I can get my losses out of the way right now.”
Lawson, described as “slippery” by Becton, hasn’t spoken publicly at the New York podium since the Jets strapped their pads on. His play has instead spoken for him, impressing teammates, coaches, and Florham Park visitors alike. New defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich once again cited advanced numbers and labeled him an “obsessed” student of the game.
“The general public is obviously, very caught up in sacks, and quarterback disruption, the statistical part of (pass) rushing. He doesn’t always check those boxes, but he’s been a guy that’s got historic win rates,” Ulbrich said in notes from Jets. “His obsession with this game, now to see him up close, as far as his stance, the timing of his hands and his feet, the distance from the tackles foot, the way he studies the tackle set, the way he studies the offense.”
Etched in the Jets’ left tackle spot for the foreseeable future, Becton perhaps never expected that one of his biggest obstacles, if not the biggest obstacle, in keeping his quarterback safe would emerge from his own locker room.
But Becton wouldn’t have it any other way. He believes these civil wars will help New York improve both immediately and in the future ahead.
“Iron sharpens iron,” Becton labeled his battles with Lawson, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “He gets me better and I’m getting him better. It helps me a whole lot.”
The New York Jets ended practice early after Clark, a second-year blocker, was stretchered off the practice field.
Tuesday’s practice at New York Jets training camp ended early after offensive lineman Cameron Clark suffered a neck injury during a team drill.
Clark was motionless for nearly ten minutes while medical staff attended to him and he was eventually stretchered off the field and transferred to Morristown Medical Center. The Jets have announced that Clark was diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion but is expected to make a full recovery. He will be held in Morristown overnight for observation.
A further report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini dictated that Clark’s father Al reported a positive diagnosis. Clark reportedly lost feeling in his legs after the incident but returned while he was being transferred. The elder Clark says his son is “fine” and reiterated that there is no spinal cord damage, though he will undergo an MRI in Morristown.
Addressing the situation after practice, head coach Robert Saleh had another team session planned but broke practice out of respect to Clark’s situation.
“It’s never good because football goes away at that moment,” Saleh said in a report from team writers Eric Allen and Ethan Greenberg. “It’s about the person, his family, his mom, and everything in his life. So that’s what takes precedence at that moment. Football kind of goes away. You get empathy in the sense that we all have families. Everything’s going to be good.”
Saleh further reported that he saw the Clark incident “out of the corner of (his) eye”.
“It looked like he was kicking into protection and then he was on the ground,” the head coach said. “I’ll have to go to the tape to see exactly what happened.”
Defensive end Carl Lawson agreed with Saleh’s shutdown and mentioned that the team had a moment of silence in Clark’s honor.
“It shows what type of man Coach Saleh is to at that point realize the situation and cut practice from there to make sure he was OK,” Lawson said. “I think the sentiment was for everybody, even the fans, that we’re hoping nothing is seriously wrong.”
Clark, 23, was chosen in the fourth round of the 2020 draft (129th overall), though he did not partake in any games last season. He is one of the most prominent faces of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s rebooted football team, partaking in a program-record 49 games. Primarily working at tackle, Clark earned first-team All-Conference USA honors and helped the 49ers partake in their first bowl game at the end of his final campaign in 2019.
As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.
Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.
The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.
Our primer begins on offense…
Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White
Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.
The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.
“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”
That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.
Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.
Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams
The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.
In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.
Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.
The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.
Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore
Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?
Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.
Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.
Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft
Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.
Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.
It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.
Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers
A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.
With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.
But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.
“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”
Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.
This is not the same old New York Jets. After hinting towards a trade, the Jets have made a move up nine selections to grab a monster from USC. After nabbing their guy at Quarterback, the Jets have grabbed Alijah Vera Tucker. Tucker is a versatile guard from Oakland, now he heads to the Big Apple.
Tucker was a highly touted prospect out of high school, receiving offers from a majority of PAC-12 schools. Tucker immediately excelled at USC and only allowed five sacks in 927 snaps. Tucker, at 6 foot 4, 315 pounds, has the size to carry that excellence over to the next level. Tucker is a plug-and-play guard with the All-Pro potential as run and pass blocker.
With Tucker likely slotting in at left guard, the Jets now have their left side of the line-locked down for the foreseeable future. Pairing Becton and Tucker up ensure Wilson’s blindside will be well protected, which is something that Sam Darnold did not have in his time with gang green. A nice little wrinkle as well, Tucker was a captain for the Trojans, something Douglas has made a point for picking players to this point.
The Jets did have to trade up to nab Tucker, but the cost was not too bad. The Jets moved up nine slots while giving their 23rd selection to Minnesota. They also gave the Vikings both pick 66 and 86. In return, aside from pick 14, they also got pick 143 in the 4th round. While they lost both their third-rounders, with three picks in the 4th, don’t be surprised if Douglas moves back into the 3rd if a guy he covets is there. Now, the Jets look to pick 34 to get their pick of the guys who slip out of the first round, with a prime chance to grab another blue-chip prospect.