New York Jets Must “Guard” The Fort In Free Agency
If the Jets want to become contenders again there has to be a changing of the guard, as in the right and/or left guard spots. Their offensive line is awful. This past season, how many times did we see a 3rd or 4th and 1 and our right guard Alex Van Routen missed his block or got blown out? Or when Mekhi Becton went into the tent for one of his many times and Chuma Edoga replaced him, he would religiously get a penalty for holding on his very first play. These scenes happened so often I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Joe Douglas has got to shore up the offensive line especially at guard.
Besides Van Routen, Alex Lewis and late season pick-up Pat Elflein played bad. Watching the Super Bowl, it was hard to find a difference between the way Pat Mahomes looked and the way Sam Darnold looked during this past year. Mahomes was under pressure the whole game never being able to get into a rhythm. The way both offensive tackles on the Kansas City Chiefs were collapsing play after play was stunning. It brought back memories from the late 1960’s of Jets tackle Sam Walton being tossed around like a rag doll by defensive lineman Ike Lassiter of the Oakland Raiders in the Heidi game. We are still weeks away from the start of the new NFL season. New coach Robert Saleh has been in the film room bunker with his new coaching staff. The quarterback situation will be the number one off-season decision for the Jets but offensive guards should be a very close second.
NFL free agency begins on March 17th, six weeks before the draft. The offensive guard position for the Jets starts and ends with two names: Joe Thuney of the New England Patriots and Brandon Scherff of the Washington football team. There will be other names tossed around at this position like Green Bay’s Lance Taylor or Arizona’s JR Sweezy. But just like there is a lot of space between Trevor Lawrence and the other quarterbacks behind him, it is the same situation with Thuney and Scherff. Both are far and away above the other unrestricted free agent guards. There are some other good guards but they are not even close to being in the same class as Thuney and Scherff.
Joe Thuney is 28 years old. The Ohio native was a third round pick of the Patriots from North Carolina State in 2016 (Jets got Christian Hackenberg 27 picks before). He made the All-Rookie team, played on two Super Bowl teams and was second team All-Pro in 2019. This past season the Patriots converted 78% of their short-yardage runs (third or fourth down with two yards to go or less) and Thuney was the key on almost every one of those plays. He had three penalties the whole season and allowed just two sacks.
Brandon Scherff is 29 years old. The Iowa native was a first round pick from the University of Iowa in 2015. He is a four time Pro Bowl player and made first team All-Pro this past season. Scherff had only two penalties and gave up three sacks this past season. He has had an incredible six-year stretch though the injury bug had him miss games in each of the last four seasons.
Either player would be great to help build up an area that has been neglected for too many years. The only reason I would target Thuney first is because since he got into the NFL he has never missed a game. He has been on the Patriots roster for five years and has started all 80 games. One of the most important qualities with free agents is to pick players that are durable and don’t miss many games. With Joe Thuney, the Jets are going to have a lot of competition with the Cincinnati Bengals making a strong play for the Ohio native.
As we get close to free agency, there will be a lot of talk about the wide receiver spot. Jets fans will be clamouring for names like Allen Robinson, Will Fuller or Brooklyn native Curtis Samuel just to name a few. The Jets and Joe Douglas have got to stay disciplined and stick with their plan in building a solid foundation. No more Trumaine Johnson’s or Le’Veon Bell’s. Signing either Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff is the smart move. If the Jets are lucky enough to get one of these players they should then look into the draft for the other guard. A few of the names that may be available late in the first round or early in the second round are Wyatt Davis from Ohio State, Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC or Trey Smith from Tennessee. Another name to watch for is Creed Humhprey from Oklahoma. He is a center who can play guard. But I would seriously consider drafting Humphrey because this would give the Jets flexibility in possibly moving center Connor McGovern back to guard.
The New York Jets last made the playoffs in 2009 and 2010. The offensive line consisted of: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Alan Fanaca, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore and Damien Woody. He are some interesting stats.
Year Record Rush.Yds. Rush. TDs Sacks Allowed/Game
2009 9-7 2756 21 1.6 (7th in league)
2010 11-5 2374 14 1.6 (tied for 3rd)
2019 7-9 1257 6 3.2 (29th in league)
2020 2-14 1683 9 2.7 (24th in league)
You can see how a team’s record relates to the success of the offensive line. I would love to have Deshaun Watson throwing TD passes to Allen Robinson or Curtis Samuel. And yes he would be upgrade over Sam Darnold. But just from these few stats it is quite obvious that football is won in the trenches whether on the ground or in the air. Joe Douglas will not mortgage the future just to get on the back pages of the local tabloids. The good news for all Jet fans is that this is the right formula and if the Jets are not in the playoffs in 2022, I will be surprised. Stay the course Joe!
Marty Schupak has been a New York Jets football fan since 1964. Ray Clifford another lifelong fan contributed to this article. Their blog and Podcast are both at:
Couldn’t agree more Marty and Ray, great article!
Your comment is appreciated whether agreeing or disagreeing!
The next few months should be exciting.
So damn sensible! Thank God this is JD’s philosophy. Nothing improves an offense faster than a great O-line. Then, you add the skill players.
Thanks for your comment!
Hey Marty (and Ray), Jets fan since ’64 when my dad bought six seats on the 50 at Shea. Saw every home game from then until ’81 when I moved to L.A. Your column above, and one or two others I’ve seen previously, are spot-on. Only thing I’d add is that the Jets haven’t had anything resembling an A-list deep threat since Wesley Walker retired and if they don’t get hip to the way the game is played these days, they’re never going anywhere. Actually, I don’t think they’ll REALLY succeed until the Johnsons sell the team to an investor group led by a proven winner like Curtis Martin, then build their own stadiium in Queens or on Long Island — but I still hope for the best every year.
Loved going to Shea. Some called it a dump but it was our dump.
Saw a ton of games living in Westchester (Yonkers).
Glad you still bleed green out in LA.
Right on about a deep threat and Wesley Walker was great!
Yes, they need another deep threat and this year’s draft is loaded with WR’s.
Besides the obvious Chase, Smith and Waddle, there are a lot of others.
Should land one.
Great point about ownership though it seems Johnsons are giving JD pretty much carte blanche running things. I’m very hopeful. Besides it could be worse. Look at the Houston ownership situation.
Curtis Martin would make an excellent owner.
Thanks for your comments. Go Jets!
Rather than Scherff, I’d like to see Douglas make a strong push to sign C Corey Linsley and Thuney. Kick McGovern out to RG for a line consisting of LT Becton, LG Thuney, C Linsley, RG McGovern, and RT Fant that would easily be the best O-line the Jets have fielded since some other USC QB was their starter over a decade ago. Personally, I’m very interested to see what Darnold can do behind a line where he only runs out of the pocket by design. Add WRs Curtis Samuel in FA and Chase/Smith/Waddle or TE Pitts (which might be a better fit given the new offense’s potential propensity for 2 TE sets) through the draft and the offense should cook, even with Darnold under center.
Linsley is a great choice. I love Thuney better because of his durability. 80 pro games, 80 starts! Moving McGovern to guard is an option. But he has played his best when at center with Denver. Hopefully this year was an anomaly. One thing I can tell you, I’ve heard so called “analytic” people say guard Van Routen improved during the year. I did not see it and would get rid of him asap. Keep the comments coming!
Agree on Van Roten. Shame it didn’t work out especially with him growing up a Jets fan. I’d also add Alex Lewis to linemen that will probably be handed their walking papers. I heard Fant also improved as the season progressed, but I’m not very knowledgeable with OL play. Did you find Fant to be a more reliable blocker during the latter part of the season? That said, I think it would behoove Douglas to add a RT early in the second. If not to start, then at least to be an understudy for a year. Always a pleasure chopping it up with you, Marty. Keep the content coming!
I just didn’t see it with Van Routen. Missed clutch blocks and pressure on Sam seemed to always come up the middle. Alex Lewis will be gone. Fant is on the fence. He is suppose to be a real good locker room guy. It will depend on who they sign in free agency. Douglas is sure to add depth. Jets are lucky this draft is so deep in OL. Even in the 3rd round there will be quality. Fun time is around the corner.