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3 biggest concerns for the NY Jets heading into the 2022 season

NY Jets, Zach Wilson
NY Jets, Zach Wilson / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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3. The NY Jets have failed to address their OT depth

The Jets are no longer in rebuilding mode, and every move they have made in the lead-up to 2022 is with the intention of competing immediately. The expectation is to be playing meaningful games late in the season. In order to do that, you have to cover all of your bases.

The answer to who the Jets would've selected if Sauce Gardner didn't fall to them at four in the 2022 NFL Draft is NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu. The now-Carolina Panther was going to be Joe Douglas' selection. The team wasn't going to hedge its bets on 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton.

As things have transpired this offseason, getting insurance for Becton would always be the Jets' play even after they drafted Gardner.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, despite having George Fant and a "healthy" Mekhi Becton at the time of their green and white scrimmage this past summer, the Jets invited veteran Duane Brown to meet with the team's brass at that scrimmage. Brown was a guest on the sidelines meeting with coaches, players, and team owner Woody Johnson.

Within days of that visit, news broke that Becton would again be out for the season due to a knee injury. With all the leverage in the world, the asking price and leverage for Duane Brown fell in his favor.

The Jets gave the 37-year-old Pro Bowl tackle a two-year, $22 million contract. The headline read that the Jets had signed Brown after Becton suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve, but he was on New York's radar and in their building before Becton went down.

So the idea of signing Brown was a good one by Joe Douglas. However, the moment that Becton was put on the shelf, the team needed to be proactive and sign or trade for a veteran tackle for insurance behind George Fant and Duane Brown, and the Jets didn't before or after the final cut period.

Now with uncertainty surrounding Brown, who has a shoulder injury and could be out for the foreseeable future, the Jets are very thin at offensive tackle and have suspect options behind him.

The only other offensive tackles on the active roster are subpar veteran Conor McDermott, who has been nursing an ankle injury of his own, and unproven rookie fourth-round pick Max Mitchell. The latter will be making his first NFL start on Sunday with Brown potentially headed to IR.

Perhaps it's something they can revisit, cap room notwithstanding, after Week 1. There are capable veterans available on the open market, like Daryl Williams who started the last two years for the Buffalo Bills. At one point, Williams received a three-year, $28.2 million contract extension with the Bills.

But for now, the Jets are walking into the season weak at a crucial spot.

Some will chalk up the Jets' latest issue at offensive tackle as simply bad luck, but quite frankly, for all the praise Jets general manager Joe Douglas has received in the offseason, from my viewpoint, he has dropped the ball in the last couple of weeks in who the team released on cutdown day and how the team passed on making any significant acquisitions to the roster.

The Jets released several promising young players from their 53-man roster — see Jason Pinnock, Isaiah Dunn, and Javelin Guidry. Perhaps that's a byproduct of the team building a stronger roster than they have in years past, and based on teams picking up those players quickly off waivers, it shows that the players had value.

The problem is not so much that Douglas cut those players — it's how the team shaped its 53-man roster to get there. Initially, the Jets kept four running backs, and it didn't last very long, as undrafted rookie Zonovan Knight was released and brought back on the team's practice squad.

New York is also carrying 10 defensive linemen on their active roster. Essentially 20 percent of the roster is tied up to one position. It's less than ideal roster construction for multiple backups who won't factor much on special teams or on game days unless snaps are significantly reduced for starters.

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