Why Jets offensive line is biggest reason for Aaron Rodgers’ 1st preseason start since 2018

Jets to start Rodgers in preseason
New York Jets’ New York Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh smiles as he talks to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, right, during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Have the New York Jets finally turned a corner with their offensive line? If Aaron Rodgers is going to play in a preseason game for the first time since 2018, that certainly might be the case. 

With the confirmation that Rodgers will be starting in Saturday’s preseason finale against the New York Giants, the Jets need to ensure their franchise quarterback is protected in a way that won’t damage their 2023 prospects.

Alijah Vera-Tucker (ankle), Laken Tomlinson (leg), and Duane Brown (shoulder) have not joined the team yet at practice over the last week. Add in concerns with Joe Tippmann’s knee injury suffered in Saturday’s preseason loss to Tampa Bay, and the Jets’ offensive line is severely depleted heading into this final preseason game. 

But the Jets would not send Rodgers out with a few backup offensive linemen. With the decision announced, the logical conclusion is that most, if not all of the potential offensive line will be back at practice for the team this week. 

It wouldn’t make sense for the Jets otherwise. Why throw Rodgers into a meaningless game without the starters he is expecting to have in the 2023 season?

New York’s decision to play Rodgers is also helped by the play of former first-round pick Mekhi Becton. After a dominant performance Saturday with the second team, many now expect him to be receiving reps with the first-team offense once practice begins in preparation for the Giants. Becton has done an incredible job of improving his trust and strength in the knee that has cost him two straight NFL seasons. After logging consecutive practices and games as the best tackle on the team, the expectation is that Rodgers will have a young star protecting his right side once the season starts. 

Jets Becton injury along with offensive coordinator news
Mekhi Becton (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)AP Photos

Ultimately, the question of why Rodgers is even considering playing in a meaningless preseason game is easily solved by the guys up front. If all five projected starters are on the field on Saturday, it makes the team’s decision sound and based on reality. New York has not had their full projected starters along the offensive line all practice together to this point in camp. If the group is healthy by this week, it could mean the Jets have three weeks to grow chemistry in their most important offensive group. 

Anything less though severely increases the chances of something bad happening on Saturday. The Giants have not determined if they’ll play their starters against their cross-town rivals, but the thought of Kayvon Thibodeaux and Dexter Lawrence against the Jets’ second-team offensive line protecting Rodgers is not a pleasant sight for Jets fans. 

The logical conclusion to all this is that the Jets expect their offensive line starters to return to the practice field this week. Time will tell if that is the case, but Gang Green certainly needs to have a reason for throwing Rodgers out into a game situation he hasn’t been in over five years. 

All eyes now turn back to Florham Park to see how the offensive line will look this week with Rodgers’ safety dominating the news cycle once again. 

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