FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Only seven of the 252 players drafted in 2008 remain on active NFL rosters. Two of those seven play for the New York Jets — quarterback Joe Flacco and left tackle Duane Brown. It was one of the first things classmates from ’08 talked about when Brown signed on August 15.
“We joked about it,” Brown said. “It’s a blessing, man. It’s a blessing.”
For her yes. It might not be a laughing matter for the Jets.
An organization proud of its youth — the bedrock of its entire recovery plan — will start the season with a 37-year-old left tackle protecting the blind side of a 37-year-old quarterback and taking over Zach Wilson’s surgically repaired knee in Week 1 yet not ready.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, which has positional data dating back to 1950, no team has started a game with an offensive tackle (both sides) and a quarterback aged 37 or older.
That’s not how the Jets dreamed it up, but two knee injuries in five days forced the Jets to change their flight schedule. First up is Mekhi Becton, who is out for the season with an avulsion fracture in his right kneecap. Then Wilson.
So get out the tapes and parachute pants – the jets are going old school. At least they’re having fun with it.
“I feel like a father who’s easy to tease and they like to laugh at me because of that,” Flacco said of his younger teammates, referring to every player on the team. “I embrace it.”
It makes an odd juxtaposition on offense. The Jets are incredibly young at the skills positions, with running backs Michael Carter (23) and Breece Hall (21) and wide receivers Elijah Moore (22) and Garrett Wilson (22), but the season could derail prematurely if the older guys — Flacco and Brown — aren’t doing their jobs.
The Jets avoided the doomsday scenario with the season ending with Zach Wilson expected to miss about a month, but the injury jeopardizes the possibility of a quick start and threatens to erode the positive momentum of a productive offseason. It’s important to keep the fan base happy and interested and to show that this won’t be another Same Old Jets season. They have lost 12 straight in September, with the most recent win coming in Sam Darnold’s first NFL start on September 10, 2018.
“Positive Vibes Only” is the t-shirt worn by coaches and players at training camp. Go oh-fer September and this shirt will be out of style.
“We haven’t even scratched the surface of adversity,” said coach Robert Saleh with optimism. “I think the saying goes that you have three negative moments a year – everyone has that – so we’re still right in the middle of it. I love our group. … I love the composition of this team and its competitive nature. “
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In a way, they’re lucky to have a player like Flacco, a Super Bowl MVP whose unwavering demeanor sends a “relax – don’t worry” message to young players. He’s lost his winning streak in recent years — 2-11 as a starter since his last season with the Ravens in 2018 — but his resume still shines. He won a Super Bowl with the Ravens a decade ago when his youngest teammates were in their teens. You saw him on TV playing almost clean-shooting against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Now he’s on their sidelines and in their scrum.
Of course, they ask him about the “old” days and what it was like to play with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He gets asked these questions all the time, and Flacco fills them with stories. That they open against the Ravens is a delicious story if he’s still the QB1.
“I’ve watched him my whole life,” Moore said of Flacco. “When I got here, I was amazed it was him. You should hear some of the guys on the sidelines. They say, ‘This is Joe Flacco.’ He is a legend.”
Now he may have to be a temporary savior tasked with stabilizing a star-crossed franchise. Things began to unravel around 11 a.m. on a muggy morning on August 8 when Becton hobbled into the locker room. Determined to protect his sophomore quarterback, general manager Joe Douglas went to the open market and signed one of the most successful tackles in the sport. Brown is a five-time Pro Bowl pick who started in every game for the Seattle Seahawks last season.
But he turns 37 on August 30, which likely explains why one of the sport’s most successful tackles was still unteamed in mid-August.
“If you ask my opponents, they will tell you I play at a high level,” Brown said. “But there aren’t many people playing up to that age, so those criticisms are valid. I’m not going to talk about what I’m going to do; I’ll just go out on the field and prove it. That’s what I plan to do.”
Brown played well last season, allowing eight sacks and committing just five penalties in 969 shots, according to Pro Football Focus. Not bad considering he played in a division that included several elite edge rushers including Nick Bosa (San Francisco 49ers), Von Miller (Los Angeles Rams) and Chandler Jones (Arizona Cardinals).
Look at the tape and you will see that three of the eight could have been cover sacks. Only one of the sacks came on a rush (Whitney Mercilus, Green Bay Packers). He’s been knocked out a couple of times and once on a spin, but it’s still been an impressive year.
“He’s blossomed into a great technician,” said Jets offensive line coach John Benton, who coached Brown with the Houston Texans from 2008-2013. “That’s what created its longevity and success.”
Thing is, Brown’s odometer has more than 12,000 career snapshots, so the engine could explode at any moment. According to Sports Info Solutions, only four offensive linemen in the 35-plus category have signed in July or later since 2017. There’s a reason it doesn’t happen often.
Not only age plays a role, but also the calendar. Brown is still in football form, has yet to attend team practice and won’t play the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) Monday night. Only 10 practices remain before they face the Ravens in Week 1.
The five starters on the offensive line haven’t had full practice together yet, and that could be with two new players (Brown and left guard Laken Tomlinson) and two players learning new positions (right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and right tackle). problems cause Georg Fant). The only holdover from last year at the same position is center Connor McGovern.
Acknowledging the “sense of urgency,” Benton added, “It’s imperative that we work — a lot — together to resolve the continuity issue.”
The Jets are banking on Becton, their 2020 first-round pick, to remain healthy after missing virtually all of the 2021 season due to knee surgery. The decision backfired. Suddenly, Becton, one of Douglas’ most important building blocks, faces an uncertain future.
With limited internal options, Douglas turned to Brown, necessitating Fant’s return to right tackle, his position for 2020. A natural left-hander, he can’t be enthusiastic about the 11th-hour change, but he took the high road and said: “There are certain situations where you have to be a pro.”
Basically, the Jets play with two left tackles and two left guards. No disrespect to Flacco, but the newly shuffled line needs solidifying with Wilson’s return. His health and development means everything to the franchise, which made him the focus of their rebuild by taking second overall in 2021. If Wilson doesn’t improve after a disappointing rookie year, it will be a charge against Douglas and Saleh.
“He had great growth last year,” Saleh said, “and we expect to continue growing this year.”
A lot will depend on Brown, his blindside protector. The 2008 draft did not bode well for the Jets, who used the sixth overall against Vernon Gholston, who was broke all the time. Years later, they dove back into the pool of ’08, trading for former first-round tackle Jeff Otah. He failed the physical exam and dropped out of the trade. In 2016, they attempted to replace retired left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson with another 2008 first-rounder, Ryan Clady. The trade backfired; his body collapsed almost immediately.
Once again they rely on the ’08s, Brown and Flacco.
“I don’t see myself as an old person,” Flacco said, “but every once in a while when these guys come up to you and say something to you, I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, you think I’m about 50 years old.’ . I understand it.'”
https://www.espn.com/blog/new-york-jets/post/_/id/90049/green-with-traces-of-gray-jets-preparing-one-for-the-ages-lineup-behind-joe-flacco-duane-brown Green, with traces of gray: Jets preparing one-for-the-ages lineup behind Joe Flacco, Duane Brown – New York Jets Blog