Jets’ big-ticket free agent expected to boost offensive line

Jets’ big-ticket free agent expected to boost offensive line

If you looked at the Jets offensive line last year, well, it wasn’t great.

Collectively, the team’s quarterbacks were sacked 47 times — a bottom-10 mark in the league. The Jets running backs were stuffed behind the line of scrimmage 26 percent of the time, according to Football Outsiders, good for 29th in the NFL.

So, there was room for improvement. The franchise hopes that will come in the form of Spencer Long.

The Nebraska product, who signed a four-year, $27.4 million contract with the Jets this offseason, was in the middle of a Redskins offensive line widely regarded as one of the best in the league two seasons ago, but played just seven games in 2017 due to a quad injury. He entered minicamp as the only new starter on the line.

“We just take last year … you gotta take it for what it is and just build off it,” right tackle Brandon Shell said. “It’s nothing — you gotta take your goods from it, you gotta take your bads from it, just try to, like, use it as a stepping stone to keep building. To get better and better.”

For Long, the transition comes mostly in verbiage and chemistry. The Jets and Redskins have similar schematic tendencies — both run a healthy amount of zone blocking — which makes things easier for the center.

But terms can be learned only by repetition, and chemistry can be developed only through experience.

“It just takes time, it takes practice [to develop chemistry], so that’s why we’re out here doing this in the spring,” Long said. “Start working with each other and get the rust off.”

Last week, the offensive line held a cookout, part of an active effort to build camaraderie among a group that can’t succeed without it.

“Just hanging out, it’s like different ways,” Shell said. “Just being around each other, like, whether that’s practice, meeting outside the building. If it’s inside the building, eating breakfast together, eating lunch together. It’s just building that bond. It could be, even in between breaks in the meeting, we [are] just sitting around talking. You know, it’s just things like that that build chemistry, like that makes you trust the person next to you.”

To hear Shell and left guard James Carpenter tell it, the line is getting better. At such an early junction in the year, that means little, but Long will be central to any improvement the Jets see.

With Teddy Bridgewater, coming off a serious knee injury, and rookie Sam Darnold, the third-overall pick in the draft, both potentially seeing time under center this season, such improvement will be vital.

“He’s been ready to work since Day 1,” Shell said of Long. “You can see he knows his stuff. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s ready to work.”

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