Jets Positional Preview: Offensive Tackles

Joe Belic previews the Jets’ offensive tackles.

After quarterback, left tackle—if your single-caller is right-handed—is arguably the most important position on the field. Properly protecting the QB’s blind-side remains crucial to winning games and keeping him healthy and on his feet.

Considering dominant pass rushers can come from both sides of the line in today’s NFL, right tackle has become increasingly vital. Finding the right player for a team and scheme proves difficult. Most fans are old enough to remember when Mike Tannenbaum thought Wayne Hunter could hold the position, and, well, unfortunately, we all know how that turned out.

Joe Douglas spent his formative years in the NFL being indoctrinated by two teams (Ravens and Eagles) dedicated to the offensive trenches.  So, let’s have a quick look at the current offensive tackles and how Douglas applied his education to fortify the outside of the OL.

Current depth chart: Mekhi Becton, Morgan Moses, George Fant, Conor McDermott (OT/IOL), & Chuma Edoga

Mekhi Becton (starting LT): Staying true to his roots, Becton was Joe Douglas’ first pick as GM of the Jets. Becton has All-Pro potential if he can build on his rookie year and stay healthy.

Morgan Moses (starting RT): Signed as a free agent this offseason, Moses had his best year from a run blocking perspective in 2020 and should be an upgrade over George Fant’s inconsistent play.

George Fant: Fant is a solid swing tackle (sixth man) who can step in and start in the event of an injury. However, one drawback remains his wildly inconsistent play; it’s almost like watching two different players from one snap to the next.

If I had one criticism of Joe Douglas thus far as a GM, it would be opting to sign Fant instead of going all-in on Jack Conklin, who warranted a price tag of $14m Avg./Year, especially when compared to a combined $12.8m Avg./Year for Fant and Moses.

Conor McDermott: McDermott’s ability to play nearly every position on the line is valuable to a unit that has seen its fair share of injures. Now, I don’t want to see him in the starting lineup, but I kind of like him on this team. Don’t @ me.

Chuma Edoga: Chuma is one of ONLY three OL drafted by Mike Maccagnan in five drafts with the Jets. To put some things into perspective, Joe Douglas’ former employer (Eagles)—who are perennials studs up front—drafted 5 OL, including a first-rounder.

Chuma has shown some flashes, but at this point, he’s nothing more than a backup-caliber player. Don’t be surprised if he’s cut after McDermott gets back from IR in three weeks.

Veterans available: Mitchell Schwartz, Russell Okung, Rick Wagner

Mitchell Schwartz is an excellent OT, and I can’t imagine he’d be a free agent if healthy enough to play.

Apparently, Russell Okung thinks his services are worth more than any NFL team is willing to offer. Otherwise, he’d be rostered by now. Okung’s missed time in both of the past two seasons, and at this juncture in his career, I don’t believe he’s a good fit for an outside zone scheme.

Having spent last season with the Packers, Rick Wagner has experience playing in this system. Wagner’s contemplating retirement at this time, and if worth signing, I’m sure Matt LaFleur would have relayed the message to his brother.

Upgrade/Downgrade: Definitely an upgrade…

Without the acquisition of Morgan Moses, this team would be one play away from Conor McDermott or Chuma Edoga playing meaningful snaps. At this point, it’s safe to say we’d all rather have George Fant in that role.

Moses’ prowess as a run blocker is a welcome addition, considering the Jets’ offense is predicated on running the ball. Plus, OL coach John Benton voiced his desire for aggressive tackles, and Moses fits the bill.

Best Case: The line remains healthy.

Becton stays healthy the entire season, continues to improve his game and has his name mentioned among the best in the business at LT—potentially earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Moses’ run blocking will open up the rush game, and as a result, Wilson’s transition to the NFL will be that much easier.

Worst case: Mekhi experiences a period of convalescence.

Becton had some issues in his rookie year: shoulder, chest, and knee. He’s currently nursing a concussion as well. If Becton misses time due to injury, Fant will be responsible for protecting Wilson’s blind-side. This isn’t exactly the end of the world, but Fant and Becton’s difference is vast and, unfortunately, will result in muddier pockets and inevitable mistakes from a rookie QB.

Prediction: The unit continues to make strides, especially in run blocking.

If Becton plays a full slate of games and Moses continues bulldozing defenders in the rush game, this OL could be a top 10 run-blocking unit. Last season, the Jets significantly improved their run blocking even with five players working together for the first time. They went from being ranked 31st to 17th in adjusted line yards in 2019 and 2020, respectively.  Add Alijah Vera Tucker, Moses, a bounce-back year for Connor McGovern, and this line may just surprise some people.

Despite some reports that he’s struggled this preseason, I’m not concerned with Becton’s pass blocking; his rookie year speaks volumes. Moses remains a significant improvement in run blocking and offers a slight edge in pass blocking over Fant. Moses’s 70.7 pass-blocking grade (PFF) compared to George Fant’s 61.8 makes me feel optimistic about the duo’s (Moses and Becton) ability to keep Zach Wilson upright and make plays.