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Over the next week or so, we're taking an in-depth look at the rookie season for each of the Jets' 2019 rookie class. We continue today with a look at tackle Chuma Edoga, who was selected in the third round of this past year's NFL Draft.
Of course, any discussion of the Edoga pick needs to acknowledge the fact that the Jets had already made a pick earlier in the round. That proved disastrous, as edge rusher Jachai Polite had a disappointing training camp and didn't even make it onto the practice squad, let alone the opening day roster.
The Edoga pick was more successful, as the 22-year old made it onto the roster and ultimately made eight starts. However, his rawness was exploited during those appearances, leaving many fans concerned that this will also prove to be a wasted pick. Edoga ended up the season on injured reserve.
When the Jets drafted Edoga with the 92nd overall pick, they knew they were getting a player with good measuables and potential, but who was likely to take some time before he was ready to contribute. However, following some unit-wide struggles over the first three games, the Jets opted to throw him into the mix and handed him his first career start in Week 5.
Edoga would start the next eight games but struggled at times as he surrendered six sacks and committed six penalties, including three false starts. Veteran pass rushers like Ryan Kerrigan were able to exploit Edoga's rawness with good technique to get his hands off them and beat him around the edge, and he was also susceptible to being driven back off his spot by power moves. He was also ineffective as a run blocker, although that was more of a team-wide issue.
Despite these struggles, there were a few signs of positive development. The Jets lost four of his first five starts but won each of his last three, proving that they could win with him in the lineup. He also had no penalties and allowed a lot less pressure in those three games.
One of the most confounding aspects of the Jets' tackle usage this year was the fact that Edoga was handed the right tackle job and held onto a starting role even though Brandon Shell consistently outplayed him all season. Edoga moved to left tackle for three games while Kelvin Beachum was injured and Shell returned to the right tackle position, only for Edoga to revert to right tackle once Beachum returned.
Durability could also be a concern as Edoga was knocked out of one game with an ankle injury, and then suffered a knee injury the following week. He eventually ended up on injured reserve with Shell reclaiming the starting role at right tackle, although there had been calls for the Jets to make that change anyway.
The Jets' efforts to force Edoga into the lineup, arguably before he was completely ready, suggested they didn't really view Shell as a part of their future. That made some sense with an extension for Shell likely to be considerably more expensive than Edoga's rookie deal. However, with reliable offensive line play proving so elusive all season, is it possible Shell's solid play down the stretch could have changed the Jets' thinking here?
Optimistically, Edoga showcased some nice athleticism at times in 2019 and had spells where he showed signs of being a capable pass protector and downhill run blocker. If the Jets believe the inconsistency he dealt with over the course of the year was mostly caused by issues that are fixable, they may still have confidence in Edoga's ability to develop into a starter-level player.
For Edoga, the main priority will be to continue to develop his strength and work on his technique. The fact he has earned some experience at both tackle positions will serve him well and strengthening the personnel on the rest of the line will make it easier to scheme around his deficiencies if he's called upon to contribute again next season.
However, it would be reckless to head into the 2020 season with Edoga pencilled in as a starter. The Jets may allow him to compete for a role, but their main priority will be to protect Sam Darnold better, so you can expect them to bring in some more reliable options. Edoga has a good shot at making the team in a reserve role and the Jets will hold out hope that he can develop to the point where he can start eventually.