Joe Tippmann

Jets Place LT Duane Brown On IR

SEPTEMBER 24: Saleh’s comment about Becton’s position switch notwithstanding, SNY’s Connor Hughes reports it will be Becton taking over at left tackle. Right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker is shifting back to right tackle — a rumored move during training camp — and second-round pick Joe Tippmann is moving into the starting lineup at right guard.

The Jets had preferred to keep Vera-Tucker at guard, but the team’s long-running tackle problems will bring the 2021 first-rounder back to tackle. Becton spent the offseason insisting he would return to left tackle, his position as a rookie back in 2020. Becton criticized the Jets shifting him to right tackle last year but has been back at that post since midway through camp. This will be Becton’s first regular-season left tackle work since Week 1 of the 2021 season.

SEPTEMBER 23: Zach Wilson‘s second start in 2023 will come without the Jets’ starting blindside blocker in place. Left tackle Duane Brown has been ruled out for Week 3, per a team announcement.

The Jets have since placed Brown on IR, meaning he will miss at least the next four weeks. New York’s plan at the blindside will become increasingly important with Brown’s replacement(s) now tasked with filling in on a medium-term basis.

Brown has been dealing with hip a injury, and the ailment kept him out of practice this week. In spite of that, head coach Robert Saleh had expressed optimism Brown would be able to suit up on Sunday against the Patriots. Now that the team will be shorthanded up front, questions have been raised regarding who will fill in at the left tackle spot, with Mekhi Becton representing an option.

Pointing toward a right-to-left tackle switch being unlikely, however, Saleh said “[Becton’s] been practicing a certain way this entire week, so to move him at the last second would be irresponsible on our part” (h/t ESPN’s Rich Cimini).

Becton was moved to right tackle on a permanent basis this offseason after tensions over his usage last year came to a (rather public) head. After dealing with a litany of injury issues, the former first-rounder has been able to play every snap so far, though, an accomplishment in its own regard considering the missed time which has dominated his Jets tenure. Given Saleh’s expectation Brown would play tomorrow, it would indeed come as a surprise if the team elected to shift Becton to the blindside (where he was originally drafted to play) on short notice.

Presuming the Jets keep Becton at the RT spot, Billy Turner could find himself in the starting lineup tomorrow. The latter has 75 starts to his name, including seven last year with the Broncos. One of several players with ties to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Turner was brought in on a one-year deal to provide experienced tackle depth given the team’s uncertainty up front.

Turner last saw time at left tackle in 2020, though, so an adjustment period would be needed if he were to be called upon to man the blindside tomorrow. Likewise, swingman Max Mitchell‘s only time last season came at right tackle, so using him at the LT spot would mark a new endeavor for him. In any event, it will interesting to see how the Jets proceed along the O-line as they look to protect Wilson during his time at the helm.

Joe Tippmann Not In Mix For Jets’ C Job?

The Jets did not make Connor McGovern a high priority this offseason, waiting until just before the draft to re-sign him. A three-year Jets center starter, McGovern signed a one-year deal worth $1.92MM.

Although McGovern may eventually be asked to step aside for second-round pick Joe Tippmann, that point might not come in Week 1. McGovern and veteran Wes Schweitzer are the top two players battling for the job, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter).

Pegged as a player set to make a push to start going into camp, Tippmann is running third in this competition. Robert Saleh said the team would like to have a winner here after its second preseason game. Seeing as the winner in this competition will be the center on the highest-profile Jets team in over a decade, this matchup takes on a bit more importance. The Jets have big question marks at both tackle spots, and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker is coming back after a triceps tear ended his second season. The team’s first-string center will obviously play a critical role on the team’s first Aaron Rodgers-piloted offense.

The Jets chose Tippmann 43rd overall. That draft status suggests the Wisconsin product will be asked to start, but the AFC East may feature two O-lines with Connor McGoverns in first-string roles (the Bills signed the former Cowboys guard in March). This would, of course, not be new territory for the elder of the NFL’s blocking McGoverns; the Jets have used the former Broncos draftee as their starting center throughout the 2020s.

McGovern, 30, missed just two games over the course of the three-year, $27MM deal the Jets authorized in 2020. This year’s center market featured several free agents re-signing for lower-end money. Ethan Pocic (Browns), Jake Brendel (49ers), Garrett Bradbury (Vikings) and Bradley Bozeman (Panthers) returned to their respective teams. While this quartet all received between $4MM and $6MM per year to re-sign, it left McGovern with fewer opportunities. The Jets guaranteed the veteran starter just $1.25MM.

Pro Football Focus graded the Mizzou alum as a top-10 center in each of the past two seasons, but despite GM Joe Douglas being in power when the Jets initially signed McGovern, the team made it a priority to select Tippmann early. They also gave Schweitzer a bigger contract, signing the ex-Atlanta and Washington interior O-lineman to a one-year, $5MM deal in March. That pact came with $3.17MM guaranteed. That contract suggests an even matchup with McGovern, despite the latter’s experience in New York.

Schweitzer, who will turn 30 next month, has made 60 career starts. Twenty-four of those came in Washington. PFF rated Schweitzer 27th among centers last season, though he only played in seven games due to a lengthy concussion-induced absence. The advanced metrics site rated Schweitzer as a top-10 guard in 2021, however. The loser of the competition could represent interior O-line depth alongside Tippmann’s heir apparent role, but New York’s tackle situation complicates that from a numbers perspective.

Latest On Jets’ Center, Tackle Competitions

Despite serving as a capable starting center for the last four years, Connor McGovern — who just completed a three-year, $27MM deal that he signed with the Jets in 2020 — did not find much of a market for his services this offseason. In April, McGovern signed a modest one-year, $1.92MM contract to remain with New York, and he watched the team draft Wisconsin snapper Joe Tippmann several days later.

While Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic (subscription required) recently reported that McGovern will get every chance to retain his starting job, he ultimately believes the club will hand the reins over to Tippmann for the start of the regular season. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com likewise believes McGovern is merely an “insurance policy” for the rookie. 

In the eyes of Pro Football Focus, McGovern finished as the 10th-best center out of 36 qualifiers in 2022, with solid scores for both his pass-blocking and run-blocking. PFF was similarly high on the Missouri product in 2021, but Gang Green clearly believed an upgrade was in order. As Cimini notes, McGovern ranked near the bottom of the league in ESPN’s pass- and run-block win rate metrics, and as the Jets are eyeing a deep playoff push, they are obviously trying to field the best lineup possible and will not give McGovern a boost because of his tenure with the team or the locker room respect that he enjoys.

Whichever player wins the right to snap the ball to Aaron Rodgers will be sandwiched by Laken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker at the guard positions. As Jets fans know all too well, however, there is plenty of intrigue surrounding the OT slots.

Mekhi Becton, a former first-rounder who was initially drafted to be the team’s franchise left tackle, has been plagued by knee injuries and conditioning problems, and after playing in Week 1 of the 2021 season, he has missed the last 33 games. Becton has lost a signficiant amount of weight in an effort to get his career back on track, and he has made it clear that he wants to return to the blindside. But recent reporting suggests that veteran Duane Brown — who has five Pro Bowls on his resume and who signed with New York last August when it becamse clear that Becton would miss the entire 2022 campaign — has the inside track to remain in that role.

The problem is that Brown is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and is presently unable to practice. That would seem to open the door for Becton to at least narrow the gap between himself and Brown on the left tackle depth chart, but as Brian Costello of the New York Post recently tweeted, Becton is currently taking LT reps with the second team, while free agent addition Billy Turner is working with the first-stringers. Connor Hughes of SNY.tv, meanwhile, says Becton is not a full participant just yet (Twitter link).

The fact that the Jets are taking it easy with Becton does not necessarily mean that he has suffered some sort of setback; at this point, any sort of participation on his part is encouraging. Still, it appears that the only way in which Becton will open the season as the starting left tackle is if Brown is unable to play, so Becton’s quickest path to a starting gig may be at right tackle (much to his chagrin). Turner, who worked under new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in Green Bay and Denver, will also be in the mix for that job, and Rosenblatt believes Turner will be the team’s Week 1 RT, with Becton or 2022 fourth-rounder Max Mitchell getting the nod later on.

Jets Sign Top Two Draft Picks, Wrap Rookie Contracts

The Jets are among the Saints and Packers as the most recent teams to conclude the signing of their 2023 draft classes. Early this morning Connor Hughes of SNY, reported that Iowa State first-round defensive end Will McDonald had officially signed his rookie contract, while ESPN’s Rich Cimini quickly added that Wisconsin second-round center Joe Tippmann was soon to follow, wrapping up New York’s latest rookie class.

While McDonald’s deal underwent the usual scrutiny of a first-round selection, Tippmann was drafted in an area of the draft that has seen some stalls in negotiations. Guarantees authorized for Panthers rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo has many rookies selected around similar draft slots pushing for similar contract details.

McDonald left Ames not only as the school’s all-time sack record holder but also the holder for the all-time lead in the Big 12, surpassing Von Miller‘s Texas A&M total of 33.0 sacks by one (coincidentally, the one sack earned in the four games of his redshirted true freshman year won him the record). He earned all those accolades despite the fact that he didn’t play football until his junior year of high school. The inexperience tends to show at times. He has all the tools of a strong NFL pass rusher but has yet to put them all together.

McDonald should get plenty of run in a deep rotation of Jets pass rushers. He might not get to start with Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers currently penciled in for the first-team defense, but McDonald and last year’s first-round pick, Jermaine Johnson, form a dangerous, young pair of backups that could result in an unrelenting barrage for opposing tackles.

In the second round, New York nabbed the draft’s top center prospect in Tippmann. There are two main differences between Tippmann and last year’s top-drafted center, Tyler Linderbaum of the Ravens. While Linderbaum (6-foot-2) was marked for being undersized, Tippmann (6-foot-6) is gigantic for what is normal at the position. Linderbaum had the ability to overcome his issues through effort and leverage. Tippmann, too, will need to utilize body position and balance in matchups with defensive tackles, but his quickness and strength off the ball were enough to help him succeed in his two years as a starter for the Badgers at center.

The other difference is that Tippmann may not project as an immediate starter, since Connor McGovern ranked as a top-ten center according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) last year, but he can certainly push for the job or others around it. While nearly 100 percent of Tippmann’s college snaps came at center, he has practiced at guard and tackle. He has the size and intelligence to make the move to another position, if necessary, but he’s likely only a starting-caliber player at an interior position, right now. This early, he really only slots in as talented, young depth for the interior line with the potential for more when given the opportunity.

With equal focus on offense and defense, the Jets had a sense of where they wanted to improve and added some good value at each draft slot. Here is New York’s 2023 draft class:

Round 1, No. 15 (from Packers): Will McDonald, DE (Iowa State) (signed)
Round 2, No. 43: Joe Tippmann, C (Wisconsin) (signed)
Round 4, No. 120 (from Steelers through Patriots): Carter Warren, OT (Pittsburgh) (signed)
Round 5, No. 143: Israel Abanikanda, RB (Pittsburgh) (signed)
Round 6, No. 184 (from Raiders through Patriots): Zaire Barnes, LB (Western Michigan) (signed)
Round 6, No. 204 (from Cowboys through Raiders): Jarrick Bernard-Converse, CB (LSU) (signed)
Round 7, No. 220 (from Cardinals through Raiders): Zack Kuntz, TE (Old Dominion) (signed)