On paper surprising, but let’s take a deep dive


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This news surprised a lot of people . . .

“Right now, the plan is Tomlinson at left guard and move AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker) to right,” said Jets coach Robert Saleh on Monday in Palm Beach.

When Mike Garafolo announced on March 14 that the Jets were signing Laken Tomlinson to a three-year, $40 million deal, most people assumed that he would plug into the right guard spot since Vera-Tucker played left guard as a rookie.

But perhaps we should have suspected something was up, because three days after Garafolo’s announcement, Tomlinson was asked in a Zoom press conference if he was going to play right guard since Vera-Tucker was stationed at left last year.

“I was going to meet with John Benton and we are going to talk about all that stuff at a later date,” Tomlinson said.

That answer was a little surprising. Why would you sign a player to a big-money contract and not be on the same page on where he was going to play?

Perhaps this meeting was delayed, because Benton, perhaps the Jets’ best assistant coach, was arrested for a DUI on March 18.

But regardless of when the meeting took place, it is somewhat surprising that the Jets would move their promising rookie left guard, who has Pro Bowl potential, to the right side, to accommodate a free agent signing? Why not just sign a guy who you can plug in at right guard, where there is an opening?

I’m not going to lie, when I heard this news on Monday, I was very surprised.

But sometimes, before you take out the long knives to rip people, you need to take a step back.

While the jury is still out on Joe Douglas at other positions, the man is one of the best offensive line evaluators in the NFL. And as I mentioned, Benton is a heck of an offensive line coach.

So if these two guys huddled and decided that moving Vera-Tucker to right guard, and plugging in Tomlinson at left guard was the best move, who am I to argue? These two have forgotten more about offensive line play than I’ll ever know. I doubt they made this decision by the seat of their pants.

“[Laken] had a lot of success at left guard in this league as a Pro Bowler last year and it’s something that we just don’t want to mess with for him,” Saleh said.

Tomlinson thrived at left guard in San Francisco, including as Saleh mentioned making the Pro Bowl (2021), so why screw around with the comfort level he has attained on the left side?

Look, you could make a strong argument that a more pragmatic move would have been to sign Chicago Bears free agent RIGHT GUARD James Daniels and plug him in at RIGHT GUARD and leave Vera-Tucker at LEFT GUARD.

But I’m willing to cut them slack and see how this works out.

Clearly, they love Tomlinson as a player and person (great character) and wanted him in the building. And obviously he’s an amazing system fit after playing in the Jets’ offense scheme from 2017-21 with the 49ers.

When I first heard this surprising news, I was prepared to write a critical column, but after further reflection, and thinking about Douglas’ great offensive line reputation, I’m more in the wait-and-see mode right now.

March 29, 2022

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