Only three weeks into the 2023 NFL season, the New York Jets are a mess and their season is quickly turning sideways. After much offseason hype and Super Bowl expectations, the Jets are 1-2 and reeling offensively after losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a season-ending Achilles injury.
If that doesn’t sound bad enough, the Jets host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and two weeks later play the Philadelphia Eagles before mercifully reaching the bye after Week 6.
So, general manager Joe Douglas has his hands full trying to salvage the season with a key free agent signing or trade. Most of the rumors link New York to free agent quarterbacks like Carson Wentz and Colt McCoy. The Jets, though, reportedly will sign Trevor Siemian if he passes a physical.
Matt Ryan, now an NFL analyst for CBS, previously said he has no interest in joining the Jets.
But quarterback is not the only position where the Jets need help. So, let’s examine the one free agent player the Jets must sign.
The Jets have a big offensive line problem
This is not an endorsement of Zach Wilson. And it should be noted that the Jets may need to add another veteran QB outside of Siemian to provide competition for Wilson before the season spirals out of control.
But no matter who’s under center, that quarterback needs more help from the offensive line. The Jets line was chewed up and spit out by the Dallas Cowboys defense in Week 2 and didn’t impress in a Week 3 loss to the New England Patriots.
Zach Wilson sacked in the end zone by Matthew Judon ❌
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) September 24, 2023
The Jets do not pass block well nor do they run block well. There’ve been no holes for Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook to run through the past two weeks. Wilson, who does hold the ball too long, has been under duress in all three games. And don’t forget that Rodgers played four snaps and was under heavy pressure on two passes, including a sack that ended his season.
The line shares the blame with the QB for New York’s inability to pick up first downs and sustain drives. The Jets were 3-for-24 on third down the past two games, due in part to being third and long in most instances.
Coach Robert Saleh loves veteran Duane Brown at left tackle. But the 38-year-old struggled the first two games and is now on IR with a hip injury after rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.
Against the Patriots, the Jets moved Mekhi Becton from right tackle to left with mixed results, including a key sack and safety allowed in the fourth quarter. Saleh has so little faith in backups Billy Turner and Max Mitchell that the Jets shifted guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to right tackle and started rookie Joe Tippmann — who was drafted as a center — at guard.
Why the Jets must sign La'el Collins
All this is to say that the Jets need help at offensive tackle. There aren’t a lot of options out there. But La’el Collins is after being medically cleared by his doctor, per Adam Schefter.
Collins started 15 games for the Cincinnati Bengals last season before sustaining a torn ACL and MCL. He missed training camp but is now cleared to play. So, it’s a risk bringing him in. But if the Jets work him out and he proves to be healthy and close to being able to play in a game, they should pounce and sign him.
At worst, Collins is an upgrade over backups Turner and Mitchell, if healthy. At best, the 30-year-old can eventually slide in as the starting right tackle, allowing Vera-Tucker to move back to guard and Tippmann to replace struggling center Connor McGovern.
Collins has been a starter for six seasons in the NFL. He’s known as an outstanding run blocker, earning an 89.8 run block grade in 2021 and 89.4 in 2019 with the Cowboys, per Pro Football Focus. He had a solid 73.5 run block grade last season with the Bengals.
The veteran allowed five sacks and 34 QB pressures last season, when his pass block grade was an ugly 44.2. However, he surrendered four sacks in 27 games the previous two seasons he played. Collins missed the 2020 season because of hip surgery.
He’s not the perfect answer to what ails the Jets, but Collins would upgrade a position that very much needs to improve, and soon.