After an impressive season debut, the New York Jets’ tackle duo of Mekhi Becton and George Fant will face a stiff challenge in the San Francisco 49ers’ edge duo of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford.
Jets LT Mekhi Becton vs. 49ers RDE Nick Bosa
After a sterling debut, Becton is facing a terrifying stretch of five consecutive games against teams with intimidating edge rushers. It starts on Sunday with Bosa, who rushed off the defense’s right side (across from the left tackle) on 77.7% of his rushes in 2019 and 91.7% of his rushes against Arizona in Week 1.
Bosa has everything in his toolbox – power, speed, finesse – but his approach is built mainly around power. He looks to explode off the ball, quickly get his hands into the tackle’s chest, drive him deep into the pocket, and shed the block with savvy hand usage.
Becton has to be ready for the physicality of Bosa’s game. On this play in the Super Bowl, Bosa engages left tackle Eric Fisher with a bull rush and then yanks Fisher down/pulls him forward to disengage. Bosa gets a hit on Patrick Mahomes despite a late start off the snap (Mahomes still completes a ridiculous throw).
Sometimes, Bosa will cause damage simply by using his muscle to create penetration. On the first pass of the Super Bowl, Fisher takes an aggressive set against Bosa, and Bosa simply tucks his elbows, tightens up his hands, and fires into Fisher’s chest, bulldozing him straight into the pocket. Bosa gets deep enough to deflect Mahomes’ pass into the flat.
Fisher lost that rep because of his late hands. He took an aggressive set but allowed Bosa to get hands-on first. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Becton must maximize his length and prevent Bosa from working his hands into the chest, because if Bosa gets the bull rush going, he becomes extremely dangerous. Once his man begins to sit on the power move, Bosa will start stacking up counters on top of counters to deal heavy damage.
On this play against Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries last week, Bosa squares up Humphries but remains patient with his approach. Humphries is baited into throwing an aggressive punch, and Bosa slices inside, swipes the arm away, and blows up the play.
Bosa ranked sixth among edge rushers with 80 pressures over 16 games in 2019. He only got better in the playoffs, racking up 22 pressures over three games, including a whopping 12 in the Super Bowl.
This is going to be a tough one for Becton. Bosa just might embarrass the rookie a few times. But that’s OK. Despite the impressive debut, we have to be ready for Becton to have some ugly games. That’s the life of a rookie at any position – especially left tackle. He will have his ups and downs against a schedule full of elite rushers this season, but if he can stay mostly steady against the tough competition and continuously display impressive fundamentals on tape, he will position himself to become a consistently elite tackle in the years to come.
Rookie curve aside, Becton vs. Bosa will be perhaps the biggest X-factor of Sunday’s game. If Becton can keep Bosa relatively quiet, it would boost the Jets’ chances of victory tremendously. The 49ers defense is predicated upon the front seven’s ability to create pressure without the blitz. That all starts with Bosa. Becton shutting him down may prompt the Niners to bring the blitz more consistently, leaving fewer men in coverage, putting the spotlight on a secondary that will not have Richard Sherman. Even if the 49ers don’t respond by blitzing more, a cushy pocket for Darnold against the four-man rush would still do quite nicely.
Jets RT George Fant vs. 49ers LDE Dee Ford
If Becton vs. Bosa is the main event, then Fant vs. Ford is the biggest match on the undercard.
The 49ers are hoping Ford can be the Scottie Pippen to Bosa’s Michael Jordan in one of the NFL’s most dynamic one-two punches on the edge. As a member of the Chiefs in 2018, Ford led edge rushers with 77 pressures. In his first season with the 49ers last year, injuries held him to a pitch count of only 20.5 snaps per game over 11 appearances, but he posted a pressure rate of 15.4% that was slightly higher than his 2018 rate of 14.8%.
Ford is questionable for Sunday’s game with neck spasms, but if he suits up, Fant will be the man tasked with stopping him. In 2019, Ford rushed off the defense’s left side (across from the right tackle) on 88.9% of his pass-rush snaps, and in Week 1 against the Cardinals, he rushed from the left on 91.7% of his rushes.
While this matchup may appear daunting for the Jets on paper, Fant is actually the perfect tackle to shut down Ford.