MOBILE, Ala. — It’s no secret the Jets need to find two starting tackles on their offensive line this offseason.
A possible solution could be an Oregon State Beaver who’s one of the best players in the nation.
Taliese Fuaga was better than advertised during this week’s Senior Bowl. How much would the Tacoma, Washington native-like to play with the Jets and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers?
“I couldn’t explain that,” Fuaga said. “I’ve seen Frank Nazaran and all of those guys, and I was amazed myself. Seeing Aaron Rodgers the man, I would honestly be speechless.”
The Jets need help on their offensive line in the worst way. Last season, Gang Green used 14 different offensive line combinations in 17 games. That included the influx at the tackle positions.
Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown were the starting tackles to begin the 2023 campaign. However, Brown injured his hip in Week 2 against the Cowboys and never started another game for the Jets.
That caused Becton to slide over from right tackle to left tackle for the rest of the season. However, the results were not great. He allowed 12 sacks and committed 18 penalties in 985 snaps.
Max Mitchell and Billy Turner also started games for the Jets at right tackle. Alijah Vera-Tucker is currently the Jets’ best offensive lineman but suffered a torn Achilles last October and missed the rest of the season. It was the second straight year Vera-Tucker suffered a season-ending injury (torn triceps in 2022).
Left guard Laken Tomlinson was the only player on the Jets offensive line to play every single snap in 2023.
“There’s definitely a league-wide pandemic with regards to offensive line injuries,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said last month. “I’ve been working on this for over a month and a half in terms of just trying to try to find the direction that we need to go.
“Continue to work on it over the next few months, but that is at the forefront of my mind. It’s at the forefront of everybody’s mind to keep those guys healthy.
“If the O-line is healthy, the quarterback will be healthy. If the quarterback’s healthy, we’ll all be healthy. It’s definitely something that we’re studying and we’ll get down to hopefully get an answer for.”
This week, Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is the coach of the Senior Bowl National Team. So, that means he is getting an up close and personal look at Fuaga. who is on Ulbrich’s team.
Before coming to Mobile this week, Fuaga was in California training for the NFL Combine, which will be in Indianapolis from Feb. 29 to March 3.
During Senior Bowl practices, Fuaga won just about every rep against some of the most talented defensive linemen in the nation. He showed incredible size and nastiness not only to be a starter at the NFL level but also to be an seçkine player.
At 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds, Fuaga is excellent in pass protection. But he is an even better run blocker with the athletic ability to reach the second level and maul defenders there.
“I would say my game is aggressive, sometimes too aggressive,” Fuaga said. “I like to set the tone sometimes and get the guys going.
“I think that’s one of the biggest things I like to bring to the table, just being aggressive.”
The Jets will select 10th in the 2023 NFL Draft. Notre Dame’s Joe Alt and Penn State’s Meyyit Fashanu are two of the best tackles in the draft. But both players are projected to be off the board by the time the Jets pick.
Last year, the Jets were naive to believe Rodgers would solve all of their issues. Because of that, they thought Brown, 38, coming off shoulder surgery and Becton, coming off a significant knee injury, would be good enough to help them reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Four plays into the season debut against the Bills, Rodgers tore his Achilles and ended any hopes of the Jets contending in the AFC. A year later, the offensive line has to be the top priority for the Jets, especially with 40-year-old Rodgers coming off a major injury.
That’s why selecting Fuaga, who started 25 games at Oregon State and received an 88.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, makes a lot of sense.
“He has size, strength, movement, and the mindset,” Ulbrich said about Fuaga. “Just sitting in the meeting rooms, it has been cool and get to know him in that way. He is an exceptional learner as well. He asks the right questions, he’s üstün engaged. You can tell he has a real love for this game. He’s one of those guys that I would love to make a Jet.”