On the most recent episode of HBO's Hard Knocks, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh had some choice words for his team's struggling offensive line. When asked about that same unit on Wednesday, Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers chose his words a little more carefully -- and hopefully.
"I thought we played a lot better up front today," Rodgers said following the Jets' joint-practice session with the Buccaneers. "It's a work in progress."
The Jets entered training camp with questions about Rodgers' blocking unit, but the problems seem to have exacerbated recently. In the Hard Knocks clip, Saleh is heard challenging his offensive line prior to last week's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. Reports from the joint practices between the two teams indicated that the Jets struggles to block consistently during them.
"You can have a Hall of Fame quarterback, you can have two $10 million-plus receivers, you can have the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, you can have all kinds of skill in the running back room, but none of it f------ matters until the big boys up front change who the f--- we are," Saleh said. "We as coaches -- we as an organization -- can't want it more than you do."
Saleh's speech appeared to work in the short term. The Jets performed well against the Panthers in a 27-0 win, allowing only one sack in the game. The problems reemerged in this week's practices with the Bucs, however.
Yet, as Rodgers noted, the Jets still do not have their full starting five available. Duane Brown, the projected left tackle, remains out for now. Both starting guards, Laken Tomlinson (leg) and Alijah Vera-Tucker (ankle), have missed practice this week. The Jets also tried to rotate second-round pick Joe Tippmann into the mix, too, after he'd mostly run with the second team in camp.
There's another possible in-house solution for the line, but Mekhi Becton's return has been a slow one to this point. The former first-rounder has been struggling to stay healthy and maintain a quality physique the past few years and remains an unknown as far as what he might contribute this season.
Becton has returned to action, but Saleh said Wednesday that the reason he hasn't received first-team reps to this point is because they aren't sure if he can make it through an entire game yet. But the coach also added that Becton is being considered at both OT spots and could start to receive some work at right tackle soon.
Becton only has taken snaps in the NFL at left tackle to this point. He missed all of last season and started only one game in 2021, but the 24-year-old did start 13 of his 14 games as a rookie in 2020.
Rodgers believes that all the missing personnel up front has hurt the Jets' OL continuity -- something that soon could start to develop with better health and the return of Brown.
"(Someone) asked a question about the continuity of the guys playing together, and I was thinking maybe we'd start to figure some of the stuff out," Rodgers said. "Obviously, it hasn't happened yet.
"There's jobs up for grabs. So that's the beauty in camp but also the struggle. In talking with a couple of the guys, we just need some continuity, I think, at some point, so guys can feel comfortable playing together. Maybe that's the end of next week. Maybe that's the week that we have in between the season and the last preseason game, but jobs are up for grabs."