Offensive lines are an ever-regressing appreciation in today's NFL game, but the value of having a great one is still very high despite the speed of the game picking up and the necessity of offensive line play being put on the backburner for more desirable types of players.
This 2021 NY Jets team has a trump card in their midst, and that is, of course, their young and promising offensive line.
I'm not someone who's all that high on the Jets going into 2021, but there are aspects of this team that are starting to sway me from total pessimist to somewhat optimistic.
Lawson has flown under the radar as a big fish in a small pond in Cincinnati, so now in an elevated role, I naturally have some doubts. However, what I like about him is that he's a little smaller than prototypical defensive ends.
He reminds me a bit of Von Miller in his body type, and piggybacking on the narrative that the game is getting smaller and faster (hence the focus on big offensive linemen dissipating), I really like the idea of a smaller pass rusher either height-wise or weight-wise being able to thrive in today's game.
Aaron Donald is shorter and he's the best interior rusher in the game. Von Miller has always been a lighter guy than prototypical outside rushers/backers. We can even look at someone on the rise in Ed Oliver over in Buffalo who's about the same size as Donald and is making a name for himself.
Lawson fits into that type of player standing at 6-foot-2 being able to get under some taller tackles and create natural leverage.
The defensive line led by guys like Lawson and coach Robert Saleh has the potential to be something special.
The NY Jets offensive line could carry the offense in 2021.
But the focus will be on the offensive side of the ball this year in New York. All eyes will be on Zach Wilson in his rookie year and he will benefit from something Sam Darnold rarely had in a legitimate offensive line protecting him.
Wilson is a more mobile QB who won't necessarily "need" as much protection as Darnold did because he'll be on the move more.
However, you put a rookie quarterback behind an offensive line that will keep him off his butt and you're going to have positive things happen.
The Jets have arguably a top-15 offensive line at the very minimum right now after the additions of Alijah Vera-Tucker in the draft and Morgan Moses through free agency.
Mekhi Becton was already a star on the rise and the duo of Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten that underperformed in 2020 is getting drastically overlooked heading into 2021.
McGovern and Van Roten are both still solid starters, and now that the line has added Vera-Tucker and Moses with Dan Feeney and George Fant as backups, I view this Jets offensive line more on-par with that of the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Rams.
The Jets even have the potential to surpass all of those lines this year.
That could put the Jets' offensive line behind only the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as we get into the meat of this 2021 regular season.
A potential top-10 offensive line to protect your rookie quarterback means this Jets team can win some games this year.
I'm a pretty ardent supporter of Sam Darnold and the move to Zach Wilson is something I'm still getting used to.
But now that we've moved further away from the switch and Week 1 is on the horizon, it's easier to see that this Jets team has some major positives going for it.