There are currently eight offensive linemen on the Jets’ roster in contention for starting roles. Joe Malfa graded their performances through two preseason games and evaluated the three job competitions.
*All numerical grades in parentheses courtesy of John Gatta at Pro Football Focus (first number is grade vs. Tennessee; second is grade @ Detroit)*
Left Tackle (competition):
Kelvin Beachum — C (53.1 – 61st among tackles; 66.5 – 61st among tackles)
Ben Ijalana — C- (69.7 – 39th among tackles; 46.6 – 94th among tackles)
Beachum’s 3-year $24 million contract led me to believe he would be a lock to start Week 1, but I am not as confident as I once was.
Todd Bowles has preached competition and made it known that every roster spot is there for the taking. I thought that was stereotypical, cliche coach talk until Saturday, when he started Ijalana over Beachum.
Maybe I am reading too much into it, but it’s not like Beachum has been a dominant force on the left side through two games. He has been better than Ijalana, but perhaps Bowles likes what he sees out of Ijalana in practice and is seriously considering giving him the nod.
When the dust settles, I think Beachum emerges as the starter, but both players certainly need to step up.
Someone will win the job over the next week, but neither player has really earned it.
Left Guard (lock):
James Carpenter — A- (77.4 – not enough snaps for rank; 76.6 – 21st among guards)
In a year that might be rough for his fellow linemen, Carpenter once again appears to be a rock. I like what I have seen from him so far, and he continues to be Mike Maccagnan’s best signing.
Wesley Johnson — C+ (48.7 – 35th among centers; 72.1 – 15th among centers)
Jonotthan Harrison — C- (65.0 – 21st among centers; 48.3 – 54th among centers
Johnson, like Beachum, once appeared a lock to start Week 1, but Bowles’s decision to start Harrison in Detroit cast some doubt on the situation.
When Nick Mangold went down in 2016, Johnson filled in admirably. He wasn’t great, but he was a serviceable NFL center.
Based on his performance in camp and a lackluster start against the Titans, Johnson has not done nearly enough to cement his role as a starter on this roster.
Fortunately for Johnson, Harrison has not been good enough to snatch the starting role. He has been good enough to turn this into a competition, but he has not quite shown enough to unseat the incumbent.
I think Johnson will go on to win the job given his track record in the organization and noted leadership qualities, but he has been rather underwhelming. This battle will be settled after a date with Damon Harrison and the Giants’ defensive line in the Snoopy Bowl.
Right Guard (lock):
Brian Winters — D (43.3 – not enough snaps for rank; 36.2 – 93rd among guards)
Winters earned a lucrative contract extension with his play in 2016 and he is certainly a lock to start at right guard, but you wouldn’t be able to tell based on his performance through the first two preseason games.
It is much too early to panic and call his contract extension a waste of money, but he needs to come out of this funk and get on a bit of a roll heading into the regular season. The Jets are counting on him to be a sturdy building block in this rebuilding effort.
Right Tackle (competition):
Brandon Shell — B+ (77.5 – 6th among tackles; 67.1 – 59th among tackles)
Brent Qvale — C+ (45.6 – 83rd among tackles; 74.8 – 27th among tackles)
I had high hopes for Shell heading into training camp and the preseason, and he has yet to disappoint. He did not allow a single QB pressure on 18 pass blocking attempts against the Titans, and he backed up that performance with another solid outing against the Lions. He was vilified on Twitter for allowing the pass rusher to come around the edge untouched and maul Christian Hackenberg on his first pass attempt of the game, but this was not his fault:
— Gary Phillips (@GaryHPhillips) August 19, 2017
It was either a missed assignment by the running back or a poorly executed check by the quarterback.
Qvale played well against the Lions, but he did so against the backups. In his start against the Titans, when he was facing a starting defense, his performance was rather disappointing.
I anticipate Shell will start against the Giants. Asserting himself against Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon could bring the competition to an end, but it is possible this battle spills into the Week 4 game against the Eagles.