New York Jets LT Duane Brown out of opener with shoulder injury, could head to IR

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FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Stung by preseason injuries, the New York Jets will be without left tackle Duane Brown for Sunday’s opener against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium.

Brown, 37, who signed a two-year, $20 million contract Aug. 15 to replace injured Mekhi Becton (out for the season), suffered a shoulder injury in Monday’s practice and could head to injured reserve, according to coach Robert Saleh. .

The Jets are evaluating the test results and will soon make a decision on whether to place Brown on IR, which would sideline him for a minimum of four games.

The news comes just two days after the Jets announced quarterback Zach Wilson will miss at least the first three games as he continues to recover from knee arthroscopy. Early in training camp, Becton injured his right knee in practice, requiring surgery.

Brown’s injury forces another reshuffling of tackle positions, which isn’t an ideal situation with the fly-half so close.

Right tackle George Fant, who started the camp at left tackle, will return to that position. Until this week, he hadn’t trained there since the first week of August, but it’s his natural position and should be a relatively smooth transition.

“I’m sure it’s frustrating for George – everyone just wants to settle into their job – but credit George,” Saleh said. “He’s a super athlete, he’s got great versatility and he’s always been a team guy first. … He’s going to the left side this week, he makes that transition very easy.”

The big question is the right tackle. Rookie Max Mitchell, a fourth-round pick from Louisiana, will get the start. Normally he would have gone to career replacement Conor McDermott, but he missed pre-season with an ankle injury. McDermott has been training this week on a limited basis, but he’s bound to be rusty.

Mitchell was drafted as a development prospect, and the plan was to have him gain experience for a year on the bench. The plan has changed. He’s had a lot of work in the preseason (a team-high 117 offensive snaps among linemen) and the coaches obviously feel comfortable with him in the lineup.

The problem with the 6-foot-6 Mitchell, listed at just 307 pounds, is that he doesn’t have the girth to handle powerful passers. His first assignment will be Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell, a six-time Pro Bowl selection.

“Max is much more advanced than we thought at this point,” Saleh said. “We are very confident that he will be able to step in and do his job.”

Brown had been a durable player in recent years for the Seattle Seahawks — no games missed in 2020 and 2021 — but he was a risky acquisition due to his age. The Jets brought him in slowly, allowing him several days of conditioning before allowing him to practice. He ended up only participating in a few practices and one pre-season game before getting injured.

“The guy moves like he’s 29, so he has a lot of life left in his body,” Saleh said. “You can always play the hindsight game, but with Duane there were no indicators.”

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