MOBILE, Ala. — While the Jets’ search for a quarterback is dominating the headlines, that’s not the only position where they need help.
Anyone who has watched the Jets knows that this team needs to upgrade the offensive line to protect whoever is playing quarterback for them in 2023. Injuries and ineffective play took their toll on the Jets line as the season wore on and offensive failures down the stretch they had a lot to do with the kids up front.
The Jets will need to add at least two offensive linemen this season – likely a center and a tackle. The hunt for those players has begun with the college All-Star games, which continue at this week’s Senior Bowl.
Jets assistant general manager Rex Hogan said the offensive line was one of the best positions he’s seen early in the draft season, but maybe not in the first round.
“I think it’s not as high a level compared to the past, but I’d say there’s some pretty good players overall with it,” Hogan said Wednesday. “I’d say it’s more prevalent throughout the draft as opposed to being the dominant top-five, top-10 guy here.”
These college All-Star games are critical for all players, but the linemen have an added advantage when they’re here. Teams like to move players around and see a guard and left tackle play right tackle and have guards play center. If they can prove positional versatility here, it could benefit them when the draft arrives.
The Jets drafted Max Mitchell in the fourth round last year after he impressed in the Senior Bowl. Mitchell ended up playing five games for the Jets as a rookie and could be a starter in 2023.
Projecting college offensive lines in the NFL has become more difficult with the proliferation of spread offenses.
“It’s the volume of plays they run,” Hogan said. “It’s just volume, volume, volume and they’re trying to get a lot of plays, so there’s not that much of an end to the game other than some teams running a traditional NFL power, gap, duo, those kinds of runs. The inside-outside zone you have to get what those guys play inside them in the spread and outside the move and what kind of physicality they show in them and project. It can be tough.”
As Joe Douglas’ right-hand man, Hogan is heavily involved in building the Jets’ roster. This roster is in better shape this offseason than it was in the previous three years that Douglas and Hogan were with the Jets. But Hogan acknowledges they still have work to do after the team went 7-10 and missed the playoffs for the 12th straight season.
“We want to keep building and improving,” Hogan said. “We’ve gone from four wins to seven wins and now we’ve got to take the next step and everybody recognizes it and realizes it and understands the importance of it.”
The Jets could celebrate the Offensive and Defensive Rockies of the Year next week with Josh Gardner expected to take home the award on defense and Garrett Wilson a finalist on offense. The 2022 draft class could be a transformative class for the Jets, with not only Gardner and Wilson, but also Breece Hall looking like a star and Jermaine Johnson, Mitchell and Micheal Clemons showing plenty of potential.
“Obviously, it feels great,” Hogan said of last year’s draft success. “The college scouting staff did a tremendous job of spotting the talent, spotting the attributes and then the football character and the personal character and how these guys fit in and what they’re going to bring to the locker room and to the field.”