Apart from New York Jets great D’Brickashaw Ferguson (2006-2015), Jets offensive tackles have been a series of rotated league castaways. The team has not been set long-term at the position for a while now. Nothing appears to be changing in 2019. As for their apparent 2019 starters, their stance with the team long-term is unclear. Meanwhile, they just spent their third-round pick on a developmental prospect who might have to shift to guard. It is very likely in the future that new general manager Joe Douglas prioritizes the offensive line next off-season as he has done in the past with the Philadelphia Eagles. But today in the 2019 New York Jets Preview series, let’s take a look at who will be protecting Sam Darnold in 2019.
2019 New York Jets Preview: Offensive Tackles
The Starters: Kelvin Beachum (LT) and Brandon Shell (RT)
Entering 2019, the Jets seem stable with average starters at both positions. Kelvin Beachum, 30, will be entering his eighth year in the league. The former seventh-round pick by Pittsburgh Steelers has been a solid starter throughout his career. And despite battling injuries back in the Steel City, he has remained relatively healthy since signing with Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016, and then with New York in 2017. Having started every game since joining the Jets at left tackle, he has provided stability and solid play to the position. Beachum is also entering a contract season, after his three-year deal back in 2017.
Meanwhile opposite of Beachum is Brandon Shell. Shell is a former fifth-round pick by the Mike Maccagnan regime – being one of his few late-round success stories. He has been the starting right tackle for the majority of two seasons now and has been decent. The nephew of former All-Pro Art Shell will be 27 in 2019 and is also a free agent following this season.
It seems repetitive with this team that injuries are a concern, but it’s rightfully so. Shell is coming off of a season-ending surgery to correct a torn ACL in his knee suffered in Week 15. He has made significant progress in recovering but is being brought along slowly in the hope he is ready for Week One. And despite being healthy in recent years, Beachum is now 30, which typically is when players begin to see their performance drop.
Additionally, both players will be looking over their shoulders at 2019 third-round pick Chuma Edoga who has shown promise thus far in practice.
The Backups: Brent Qvale (OT) and Chuma Edoga (RT)
Similarly to the interior of the offensive line, the Jets lack overall depth. However, veteran Brent Qvale returns as the primary backup at both tackle positions. From 2015-18, Qvale has played in 60 games, including 14 starts. Qvale is 28 and entering his sixth season in the league, and is the obvious choice to enter the starting lineup if Beachum or Shell ever went down. Moreover, the team ideally could look to veteran guard Tom Compton too as a backup tackle given his past experience at the position.
In addition, the Jets very well could look to give playing time to rookie Chuma Edoga. Edoga is a 6’3″, 308-pound offensive tackle from Sam Darnold’s alma mater USC. His size could push him inside, but the Jets seem confident that he could survive on the outside. Viewed as a project prospect, Edoga could easily wind up progressing quickly and fighting Beachum or Shell for the starting position if either is struggling.
The Bubble: Eric Smith (OT), Wyatt Miller (OT), and Calvin Anderson (OT)
The offensive tackle bubble watch does not appear as much of a competition to make the 53-man roster as it does the practice squad. Eric Smith’s career began as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins back in 2017. Since then, he joined the New England Patriots practice squad in 2018, and the Jets roster late last season. If Qvale struggles to adapt to Adam Gase’s system, Smith could be the first guy up to potentially steal a backup job. Wyatt Miller is an undrafted free agent out of UCF. The former starting tackle could be forced inside due to his size (6-4 and 306 pounds) and lack of strength that is needed on the outside. He plays with good quickness and technique but needs time to develop. Calvin Anderson is another UDFA who lacks the necessary strength but does have the size needed to play offensive tackle. Inconsistency and body control have been longstanding issues for him and will take time to work on. Making him, like Miller, likely practice squad candidates.
Last Word on the 2019 New York Jets Preview: Offensive Tackle
The Jets starters seem clear with veteran Kelvin Beachum on Darnold’s blind side, and Brandon Shell on the right. That is assuming Shell is ready for the regular season opener after coming off his knee injury. Brent Qvale seems primed yet again as the primary backup tackle, given Edoga’s likely timetable to slowly develop. Lastly, the bubble players seem destined to be battling it out for the practice squad with the starters and backups being clear.
Stay tuned for the next article in the 2019 New York Jets Preview series with a look at Gang Green’s EDGE defenders!