Like Namath’s Protectors, Jets Must Secure New Ring Around Wilson

By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/

Winston Hill, Bob Talamini, John Schmitt, Randy Rasmussen and Dave Herman.

They were the offensive line unit that protected Joe Namth in Super Bowl III as well as for a few years before and after the event. They also were regarded as one of the league’s elite. Hill was a premier left tackle before the position was recognized.

Within a few weeks, the Jets once again will begin to evaluate an offensive line that will protect the next franchise quarterback.

The Jets are in the final stages of piecing together a suitable line that can mature in front of Zach Wilson. 

They started the offseason with incumbents center Connor McGovern, right guard Greg Van Roten, left tackle Mekhi Becton and right tackle George Fant.

Becton began to blossom as the top pick at left tackle, and McGovern and Van Roten proved they could be steady performers. Fant, a career backup, surprisingly held his own.

Yet, Pro Football Focus had the Jets’ line ranked 29th — the Giants were 31st– from the 32 team field.

Their reasoning was the following – “They allowed pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 28% of their dropbacks — the worst rate in the NFL. The line wasn’t creating many lanes in the run game, either. The Jets averaged just 1.1 yards per carry before contact per rushing attempt in 2020 (30th). Once again, they’ll have to look to add pieces to their offensive line this offseason.”

GM Joe Douglas knew his line needed some work. 

Douglas drafted massive USC guard 6-4, 308 Alijaj Vera-Taylor who played both guard and tackle out West. Vera-Taylor was regarded as one of the top, pure overall lineman in the draft. He is penciled in as the team’s left guard.

Dan Feeney was signed away from the Chargers as a guard, and guard Alex Lewis and tackle Chuma Edoga are leftovers who could be in the mix. 

Lewis once was seen as an instant solution, but he became an enigma when he missed half of the season for an undisclosed reason. Edoga was an adequate spot-starter and backup. 

Douglas signed rookie free agents tackle Grant Hermanns (6-7, 300), guard Tristen Hoge (6-4, 304), and tackle Tefton Sales (6-5, 302).

The GM obviously likes size. Does he have enough chemistry and camaraderie?

At the time of this writing, the Jets reportedly were on the verge of signing former Redskins tackle 6-6, 330-pound Morgan Moses, who was a starter for six seasons before he was a salary-dump victim last month.

Moses would be a real find, as he was ranked as PFF’s 18th best tackle. The Jets had entertained signing former other high-profile tackles, and Moses certainly would tighten the line.

If Moses does sing. Fant could slide back into his familiar role, and the team would have some significant depth. Feeney could be a backup for Vera-Taylor.

The bottom line is the Jets need a line to protect Wilson. Moses would give them enough bodies to try a mix and match format with the beginning of training camp in late July.  

The Jets have  tried to provide WIlson with enough passing targets, and they worked to upgrade a dormant running game.

They don’t have a Hill-Talamini-Schmitt- Rasmussen-Herman unit, but Douglas has worked to get there.

By early September, we’ll realize if he did enough to protect the type of quarterback the franchise has been waiting to arrive. 

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