Alex Lewis might turn to social media to make sure his new offensive linemates are putting in their work.
With everyone exercising social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams can’t get on the field together. But Lewis, the Jets’ returning starting left guard, has a thought about doing pass-blocking drills virtually to start preparing and getting on the same page.
“We’re very lucky to live in the era that we have social media, where you’re able to communicate virtually,” Lewis said. “I know there’s a couple of push-up challenges going around. I was thinking of sending a couple of pass-set challenges. Hopefully, it gets guys on the grass or the turf. Let’s start building that virtual chemistry before we meet in person.
“A lot of it is going to fall on the responsibility of the individual. We’re going to find out how bad the individual wants to win. We’re going to challenge each other over social media and see how great we can be when we show up and report.”
The Jets could have four new starters on the offensive line, so any extra work can only help, especially with all facilities closed and team activities on hold.
General manager Joe Douglas’ free-agent focus was on the line and making sure Sam Darnold was better protected. The Jets reached deals with tackle George Fant, center Connor McGovern and guard Greg Van Roten, a Chaminade High School product. Douglas could take another big tackle with the No. 11 pick in the NFL Draft on April 23.
Lewis, 27, is one of the few players returning from last year’s often overmatched offensive line and maybe the lone starter. Center Jonotthan Harrison is under contract and it appears right guard Brian Winters, who is recovering from a season-ending shoulder injury, will be, too. It was widely believed the Jets would release Winters, whose 2020 salary is not guaranteed.
But it was clear that Lewis was a part of the Jets’ future. They signed him to a three-year, $18.6 million deal with $6 million guaranteed after he impressed them with his play as Kelechi Osemele’s replacement.
A former fourth-round pick of the Ravens in 2016, Lewis played a career-high 765 snaps and allowed two sacks last year. He’s looking forward to being even better with some new faces around him and said he will help them in any way he can.
“I’m fired up for my new linemates,” Lewis said. “To get the signings that we did, we’re going to put a pretty sweet unit together.
“As an offensive line, we've got to step up and take ownership and be the best unit we can be together,” he added. “It’s going to be huge for us to step up as a unit, establish a run game early on and keep Sam upright. Without Sam, it’s a hard game to win. I’m glad he’s on my team and I’m looking forward to protecting him and getting everybody on the same page in our room and I’m looking forward to beating some teams.”
Lewis said loyalty to Douglas was a big reason for his return.
Injuries forced Lewis to miss nearly two full seasons with the Ravens, as he played in only 20 of 48 games. He was returning from a shoulder injury last year and reportedly upset the Ravens when he rehabbed away from the team. The Ravens were set to release him, but Douglas traded for him first, sending a seventh-round pick to Baltimore.
“My agent dealt with several teams going through free agency,” Lewis said. “It was familiarity with the Jets, how much I meshed with the coaching staff there, how much I enjoyed my time in New York, Adam Gase.
“Joe Douglas gave me a second chance when the Ravens were going to release me by trading for me and picking me up before I hit the wires. There was a lot that went into the decision to stay. I’m happy that I did. I’m glad I got a deal done and I’m looking forward to this new season."