Robert Saleh Shares High Praise for Jets Rookie: ‘Soaking It Up’

Olu Fashanu, Jets

Getty New York Jets rookie offensive lineman Olu Fashanu warming up during a practice session.

The New York Jets caught some initial flak on social media for selecting former Penn State offensive lineman Olu Fashanu with the No. 11 overall pick in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft.

On paper, this was the second straight year that the green and white has selected a player who didn’t have a clear path to a starting gig (Will McDonald). Despite some of that hubbub, Fashanu has been turning heads at practice.

So much so that head coach Robert Saleh revealed an interesting Fashanu story from inside the building during his media availability on Wednesday, June 12.

“Great mover. Everything that we saw from an evaluation standpoint in the draft is true to form. A great young man. He is soaking it up. In our team meeting today he was highlighted with regard to, you can’t have the physicality, but you can see with regard to intent and technique and all that stuff. Things that he was trying to do in Week 1 compared to what it looks like now after seeing Tyron [Smith] do it. The experience he has in that room, he is deliberate in the way he approaches the game, and he’s always going to have things he needs to work on but I’m really looking forward to him getting out there in training camp with pads on to see it all come to fruition,” Saleh explained.

Saleh Confirms No Position Change Is Coming for Fashanu

Perhaps the bigger point of emphasis should be that Saleh confirmed that Fashanu will continue to practice exclusively at left tackle.

That is where Fashanu played at the college level at Penn State. Now he will continue to protect the blindside at the NFL level.

There was some question whether or not the Jets would consider moving Fashanu to different positions in the trenches to get him on the field sooner.

This offseason the green and white lured five-time All-Pro Tyron Smith over to New York in free agency. He is one of the greatest left tackles in NFL history and is still playing at an incredibly high level at 33 years of age.

Outside of an injury situation, Fashanu isn’t beating out Smith. That reality led analysts to criticize the Jets’ selection of Fashanu in the first place for a win now team in 2024.

That led to speculation that perhaps the Jets could throw Fashanu in the right tackle competition with Morgan Moses or perhaps even kick him inside to compete at guard.

However, despite outside pressure, the Jets are keeping Fashanu at his original draft position.

Jets Hopefully Learned Their Lesson From the Past

In 2021 the green and white traded up to the No. 14 overall pick to select USC hog molly Alijah Vera-Tucker.

He had a great rookie campaign appearing and starting in 16 of the 17 games. AVT was named a member of the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie Team.

The arrow was pointing up but things went south over the following two seasons. Instead of keeping the former Trojans product at one position, the Jets moved him around the offensive line due to an array of injury issues.

In 2022 he got snaps at left tackle (70), right guard (232), and right tackle (130). In 2023 he got snaps at right guard (101) and right tackle (149), per Pro Football Focus.

Saleh admitted that the constant jumping around to multiple positions played a factor in AVT’s injury woes. He suffered season-ending injuries in both 2022 and 2023.

AVT stayed at one position (left guard) as a rookie and he didn’t get hurt. When he played multiple positions in a single season he did get hurt. Coincidence? Who knows but the Jets believe it’ll help.

Saleh stated this offseason that they plan on keeping Vera-Tucker at right guard. Now it seems like they plan on keeping Fashanu at left tackle.

That would mean New York would have two guys instead of having a traditional swing tackle, where one player would typically be the top reserve option for both tackle spots. Instead, the Jets plan on having Fashanu as the top left tackle reserve and someone else as the top right tackle reserve.

That should be a healthy competition for that spot featuring players like Carter Warren and Max Mitchell.

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