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Jets' Preseason Position Battles: Identifying a Starting Center

Grizzled veteran and promising rookie competing for important job

The New York Jets' center depth went from non-existent to highly sufficient in a matter of four days during late April.As a result, there will be a closely-watched position battle for starter status once training camp opens in Florham Park.

"You guys know how we are, everyone’s competing," said head coach Robert Saleh. "Doesn’t matter where you get drafted, doesn’t matter what you get paid, you’re coming in to compete to begin with, so it’s going to be an open competition."

It'll be veteran Connor McGovern and highly-touted rookie Joe Tippmann duking it out for the privilege of snapping the football to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.Gang Green had no centers under contract at the start of the new league year in March as the 30-year-old McGovern hit the free agent market. The Jets signed versatile veteran offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer during the opening week of free agency, but the Swiss Army knife, who has regular season playing experience at all five OL positions, is primarily viewed as an insurance policy on the interior rather than a starter at center.More than five weeks into the new NFL calendar, with the Draft approaching, McGovern, whose 3,055 offensive snaps lead all Jets’ players over the past three seasons, was still unsigned and Gang Green's starting center spot remained vacant.

That wouldn't, however, be the case much longer.

The Jets announced a one-year deal with McGovern on April 24, bringing back a reliable veteran who has made 48 out of a possible 50 starts since 2020.Four days later, Joe Douglas and Co. used the No. 43 overall draft choice on a top-ranked center prospect out of Wisconsin. The 6-foot-6 Joe Tippmann was the first center off the board in 2023, bringing "plug-and-play" potential to the Jets."Excellent size, excellent feet, can bend, great on the move, I feel like he’s a natural fit for our offensive style," said Douglas after selecting Tippmann in Round 2. With McGovern back on board, there is no need to rush the second-rounder's development. In fact, the veteran's presence could be advantageous to Tippmann.

"There’s a lot of experience around him, and in that room when you talk about Connor," said Saleh. "Connor’s played a lot of football in this League and he’s going to be an asset also for the young kid to be able to lean on and learn off of."Should Tippmann prove worthy of the starting assignment this summer, the Jets likely won't hesitate to start a rookie at a position that requires great responsibility."He’s a guy that’s an unbelievable communicator," said Douglas. "Very intelligent, quick grasp of the offense there in Madison and able to control the huddle. That means a lot, the center has to be the core of the interior, core of the offensive line, so has to be able to communicate, take control."As to which player will be taking control and making the calls up front when the real games begin, the Jets have a choice between McGovern's proven reliability and the exciting potential that Tippmann possesses.

It doesn't sound like a committee approach is in the cards at center."That o-line, you want it to gel," said Saleh. "In a perfect world, the same five play 17 games and then you’re rolling."

Jets' Centers

Connor McGovern

Number: 60
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 306
How/When Acquired: FA Signing / 2020 (from Broncos)
College: Missouri
Year: Seventh
2022 Final Stats: 17 GP, 17 GS. 1,120 snaps

A mainstay in the middle of the Jets' offensive line the past three seasons, McGovern was on the field for every offensive snap in 2022. When the free agent market never materialized for him, the Jets were able to bring him back for a deal reportedly worth about $2 million. The battle-tested veteran has yet to achieve Pro Bowl status, but he has garnered above-average grades for his performance with Gang Green.

Joe Tippmann

Number: 66
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 317
How/When Acquired: Drafted / 2023 Round 2 (No. 43 overall)
College: Wisconsin
Year: Rookie
2022 Final Stats: 12 GP, 12 GS (at Wisconsin)

Ranking first or second amongst centers on almost every 2023 NFL Draft board, Tippmann should be able to immediately contribute at the pro level. The two-year Wisconsin starter, who features an 80-inch wingspan, is substantially taller than the average NFL center, but his size doesn't seem to be an issue. Tippmann accounted for the Badgers' best run blocking grade (78.0) according to Pro Football Focus in 2022. Playing 338 pass blocking snaps, he was charged with only one sack and five pressures.

Wes Schweitzer

Number: 71
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 300
How/When Acquired: FA Signing / 2023 (from Commanders)
College: San Jose State
Year: Eighth
2022 Final Stats: 7 GP, 6 GS, 425 snaps

The ultimate Swiss Army knife, Schweitzer made six starts at center for the Commanders during a 2022 season that was interrupted by a head injury. Although he has game experience at all five o-line positions, the 6-foot-4 veteran has primarily played guard during his NFL tenure. He has made 80 appearances (60 starts) since his career began with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016.

 >>  https://www.si.com/nfl/jets/news/preseason-position-battles-identifying-a-starting-center

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13 hours ago, Beerfish said:

Hopefully we got the right guy John micheal schmitz was touted as the top center most of the draft process and the giants got him.

At least Douglas has tried hard to build an oline unlike the previous gm.

I thought so too but then I heard a lot of people say Tippman was easily the best. I have no doubt he starts Day 1

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44 minutes ago, Jethead said:

I think the Jets were a bit disappointed in their first look at Tippman during OTAs. Would be big time positive if he handily beats out McGovern. Fingers crossed.

Well that’s impossible. The article clearly states Tippmann should be able to immediately contribute at a pro bowl level. 


Maybe the Jets hadn’t read this article yet during OTAs.

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---  Most compelling position battle: Connor McGovern vs. rookie Joe Tippmann at center

The winner gets the opportunity to snap the ball to a future Hall of Famer, something to share with the grandkids one day. McGovern is the incumbent, but that status doesn't carry a lot of weight in this situation. The Jets want to upgrade the position, which is why they used a second-round pick on Tippmann, an unusually big center (6-foot-6) who they believe has the mental makeup to handle the most cerebral position on the offensive line. It's Tippmann's job to win. McGovern is respected in the locker room, but he ranked near the bottom in ESPN's pass- and run-blocking win rates metrics He tested free agency, but returned on a modest one-year deal ($1.9 million) -- a team insurance policy if Tippmann isn't ready. Rodgers, who has played with rookie centers, probably will have some say in the matter.

  rest of above article  >>  https://www.espn.com/blog/new-york-jets/post/_/id/92115/new-york-jets-training-camp-preview-is-aaron-rodgers-the-savior

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