The recent turmoil to hit the aircraft attack line only means one thing for the versatile George Fant.
Duane Brown’s shoulder injury will force Fant back into the left tackle once again in Sunday’s season opener against the Ravens, as rookie Max Mitchell started his first career on the right tackle. Robert Saleh, the Jets coach, described Vant as the best player on the team, but the constant switching was clearly not ideal.
“Man, he’s obviously frustrated. The second time in a row I’ve had to move game week around. I just want to feel relaxed and play center and haven’t had that since I’ve been here,” Vant said after training Friday at Florham Park.
“It is almost impossible to really prepare as you want. Yes, I played in both positions, but still the situation is to prepare and understand how you need to play against certain players in certain aspects. I just take the time I can do now.”
Brown, the five-time Bowler pro player who signed in August after Mickey Pickton suffered a season-ending knee fracture early in training camp, will also miss at least the opening game. “There is a possibility” that the 37-year-old Brown will land on the injured reserve, which will keep him out for at least the first four games of the season, Saleh said.
Zach Wilson will also miss the quarterback for at least the first three matches due to the right knee injury he sustained during pre-season.
Brown, who has $20 million on his two-year contract and $9 million in guaranteed money, missed just 4 of his 65 games with Seattle over the previous four seasons before he was practically injured on Monday.
“Dwan has been in good health throughout his career. Saleh said he takes amazing care of his body. “And that’s a pity, it’s a football injury.”
Fant played so well last year in Becton’s absence that the original plan for the organization going into training camp was for Becton back in the right tackle. Fant was switched left to right on Brown’s arrival after Becton fell again last month.
“I’m sure it’s frustrating for George because everyone just wants to settle down in their job,” Saleh said. “But thanks to George, he is an excellent athlete. He has great versatility. Throughout his career, he has always been a team player first. He is a great teammate.
“It is not easy for him to sacrifice jumping left and right and left and right. But at the same time, he is very talented and athletic and smart enough to be able to do that. … So he makes it very easy for this jump.”
Fant was also limited in practice earlier this week with a knee problem, but the six-year NFL veteran said he was “good to go” against the Ravens and “confident” that Mitchell would step in and play well.
“One thing I can say is if you’re on the NFL roster, whether you’re playing for a team or not, you’re playing one away,” Saleh said of Mitchell, the Gates’ fourth-round pick from Louisiana. “I’ve said it before, Max is way beyond what we thought he would be at this point.
“We’re pretty confident he’ll be able to step in and do his job. We think his acceleration will be faster, because there’s nothing like getting representatives in the NFL and getting baptized early in your career. So we believe in him a lot.”
Mitchell played for the Jets’ starting line-up during part of their first pre-season game against the Eagles, facing veteran linebacker Fletcher Cox and linebacker Haason Reddick. Now, he’ll face the six-time Pro Bowl passer Calais Campbell, who has 93.5 sacks in his career.
“He’s obviously a famous guy, but another guy. It’s definitely a challenge, but I’m ready for it,” Mitchell said. Personally, I expect to be ready to play there.”