FLORHAM PARK — 2022 wasn’t the best season for Duane Brown on the field, but it certainly had its moments.
The 37-year-old tackle played in 12 games for the Jets last season but also fought through a shoulder injury that had him playing hurt for most of the year. Because of his selfless sacrifice to the team, New York awarded him the first ever “Selfless Warrior” honor voted on by the coaches for “giving the most of himself to the team.”
Entering the 2023 season though, Brown is continuing to rehab from his injury but finds himself in the middle of a position battle for the role he has played for the last 16 years in the NFL.
New York announced quickly that there would be a position battle at left tackle with Brown competing with younger players like former first-round pick Mekhi Becton and second-year player Max Mitchell. While some of the younger players competing for the role have already spoken out, Brown has been focused on trying to win a championship for the first time in his career.
“I still have plenty left. I feel I played at a high-level last season. The team has a great shot. I’ve done everything you could ask for in my career but I want to win and I want to be the best version of myself to contribute to that,” Brown explained following Wednesday’s OTA practice.
In regards to the left tackle position, both Brown and Becton have acknowledged that they would prefer to play at their usual position, instead of being forced to play on the right side for whoever loses the battle. Becton took to Twitter a few weeks ago stating just that, and Brown followed that up with comments of his own on the potential move to a new position.
“I have not played a game at right tackle since my junior year of college. So it’s not something that I’ve practiced over the years. Not to say I can’t do it, but I’ve been solidified in that spot for a while.”
Even with the looming position battle, the respect for Becton and Brown has continued to grow since the former Seahawk came to the team following Becton’s injury last offseason.
“We’ll see how it plays out. I have all the respect in the world for Mekhi. He’s a very talented player. My focus right now is to get healthy and then we’ll figure it out…He’s working extremely hard and I’m really happy for him,” Brown stated.
The team has been impressed not only with Becton’s focus this offseason but also with Brown’s understanding of the current outlook on the Jets roster. Being an aging player who has younger talents competing for the same role isn’t always easy, but it allows the franchise to build a team (and offensive line) that best fits what they want to do.
And Brown’s selflessness certainly helps with those decisions.
“He doesn’t believe he’s entitled to anything. He believes he’s got to earn everything and there’s a reason why he’s played for so long and has had so much success. I mean look at him, he’s a brick house. He can still play as many years as he’s willing to play,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said of the tackle.
The New York Jets may have tremendous love and respect for the old-timer, but that doesn’t mean they’ll just give him another starting role in 2023. Like Becton and the other young tackles on the roster, Brown will need to get healthy enough to show why he is deserving of keeping the role he’s played since he was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2008.
But once healthy, the entire Jets offensive line could be in for one of the better years in franchise history.
“Sky’s the limit. You have some guys where getting us to 100% will be key but once we get everyone together we’ll have a heck of a unit,” Brown concluded.