Jets see value in youth movement along offensive line for remainder of 2023 season

Jets practice updates
New York Jets tackle Mekhi Becton (77) listens to coaches during practice at the NFL football team’s training facility, Friday, July 21, 2023, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photos

When the 2023 NFL regular season began, the New York Jets were considered a veteran-heavy offense that could compete with some of the top groups in the AFC. 

As the calendar turns to December, the veteran-laden team has struggled to operate as a functional offense, and the youth movement has officially begun. Due to injuries to key players along the offensive line, and at quarterback, the Jets have had to turn to rookie draft picks like Joe Tippmann, Carter Warren, and Israel Abanikanda. 

Through the last few weeks though, there is reason for optimism with those offensive rookies, particularly along the offensive line.

“It is about opportunity,” Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett explained. “It is about guys growing, it is about being a young team, it is about being able to give them the experience to actually go out there and play football in live situations. For us, any experience you can get on the field is priceless.”

Jets could move Mekhi Becton to RT
New York Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, front center, who was fired from the head coaching job of the Denver Broncos last year, celebrates as he leaves the field with offensive tackle Mekhi Becton after defeating the Broncos in an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The biggest name that has stepped up has been second-round rookie Joe Tippmann. Before the season began, there was hope that the Wisconsin product could grow into the team’s center of the future over the coming years.

It didn’t take years to determine just how good Tippmann could be, though.

“Watching him respond is unbelievable, he soaks everything in, he wants to learn more, and he is getting better, and I think that is the key,” Hackett explained. 

Tippmann has been the lone bright spot on an offense that has struggled to maintain healthy linemen all season. New York is entering Week 13 and has already used 13 different linemen and eight different line combinations – both numbers are among the highest of any team in the NFL today. 

Due to the revolving chairs of players in all five positions, the Jets have had to rely on rookies and second-year players they weren’t expecting before the season began. 

One of those players is fourth-round prospect Carter Warren.

Warren understood that he wasn’t expected to get much playing time this season behind Duane Brown, Mekhi Becton, and several other reserves. Now, after being thrust into the starting left tackle role in Week 12, he has done enough to show the coaching staff he belongs on the field for Sundays.

“I really like what Carter (Warren) has been doing, so I’m trying to make sure that we get a chance to see him too,” head coach Robert Saleh said when asked about the potential return of both Brown and Becton. 

Warren and Tippmann are two surprising pieces that have given Jets fans hope for the future viability of the franchise once Aaron Rodgers comes back, and even after his playing career. A big testament to both of the rookies though has been their preparedness for the big moments in games – something that both attribute to offensive line coach Keith Carter as a reason for.

“The biggest thing is really just being prepared at all times,” Warren told AMNY. “I didn’t expect to go in (vs. Buffalo) but the way we practice, the way we prepare throughout the week as a room, I was ready to go.”

As New York sits at 4-7 on the season, the likelihood of a late-year push for the playoffs is unlikely with their third starting quarterback and several other issues plaguing the entire offense. As with any lost season though, there are several reasons to be pleased with the overall outlook of an organization.

“We’re just always building on what we’ve done,” Tippmann explained. “Even though we haven’t had much success, we just got to keep our eyes forward and keep building on it.”

For the Jets, the health issues that have come up this season have only given a chance for some of their younger players to play in big moments, and be better equipped to handle them for the rest of their careers. 

It may be ugly now, but with the experience that players like Tippmann and Carter are getting, it may just be the best thing for the Jets in the long run of their franchise’s growth. 

For more New York Jets news, turn to AMNY.com