Mekhi Becton’s preseason film has quelled concerns about his practice performances
One of the most recurring stories of New York Jets training camp has been the struggles of second-year left tackle Mekhi Becton. Day after day, Twitter is flooded with reports of Becton giving up a boatload of pressures.
Considering how consistently Becton has struggled in practice, those woes are certainly not to be overlooked.
Then again, it’s important to focus on the actual on-field results sometimes.
Becton has done just about everything he can do to put those concerns to rest through his play in the preseason. He looked comfortable and appeared to be in peak physical form throughout back-to-back solid performances against the Giants and Packers. None of his practice struggles have spilled over into his game tape.
Becton has earned an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 76.5 in the preseason thus far. That ranks fifth-best among the 44 players to log at least 40 snaps at left tackle. His pass-blocking grade of 81.5 ranks first while his run-blocking grade of 71.9 ranks 12th.
Yes, Becton has played against the second-team defenses of the Giants and Packers. But there’s always a bar to clear. When the competition is worse, the bar is higher.
And Becton has cleared that bar. The football gods put weak players in front of him and he has met expectations by dominating them as he should.
Let’s take a look at Becton’s tape throughout the first two weeks of the preseason.
Mekhi Becton vs. New York Giants
Becton has shown a little bit of everything throughout his two limited preseason appearances. In the run game, he has showcased an impressive blend of open-field agility, first-level power, and smart angle-taking.
As a pass protector, he has shut down everything thrown at him, including speed, power, and finesse moves.
Taking on the 4-tech in rushing game
On this second-and-2 run play, Becton takes on the 4-technique defensive tackle who is lined up directly over him.
Becton stays low as he comes off the ball and fires both hands into the DT’s upper body. As he drives the DT, Becton rotates his hips inside while using his outside arm to torque the DT inside. Becton creates an enormous amount of movement and Ty Johnson runs behind him for the conversion.
Here is a nice second-level rep by Becton against a linebacker:
Becton knows his job is to get out in front of the LB and seal him to the backside, so he takes an aggressive outside angle. He angles his body slightly toward the sideline to cover ground laterally and get outside of the LB.
Once he arrives at the LB, Becton fires at him with both hands, influencing his momentum to the inside. Becton then rotates his body toward the inside to wall off the running lane.
Backside rep against interior defender
Becton works against the 3-technique DT here:
On the backside of this play, Becton’s job is to get out in front of the 3-technique and block his lane to pursue the running back from behind.
It’s a tough assignment, but Becton gets it done with his athleticism. He fires out of his stance, crosses the DT’s face, and extends his outside arm into the DT’s body to fend him off. Becton successfully prevents any backside penetration.
Solid pass set against a Wide-9 look
Here is one of the many strong pass-protection reps that have made Becton one of the preseason’s absolute best pass-blocking offensive linemen:
Becton takes on the wide defensive end, Giants rookie Azeez Ojulari. Technically, Ojulari is a 7-technique since he is lined up inside of the tight end, but since Tyler Kroft is stationed so far off the line, he is essentially a wide-9 here.
Ojulari throws an inside fake but Becton doesn’t bite. Becton frames Ojulari well and stays square to him, patiently mirroring him as he rushes up the arc and tries to set up his move. Ojulari throws his inside arm, seemingly looking to set up an outside rip.
Becton denies the arm and establishes firm contact on Ojulari’s shoulder, driving him away from the pocket.
Wide-9 rep against Azeez Ojulari
Becton again takes on Ojulari from a wide alignment:
Ojulari fires out his four-point stance with his shoulders pointed directly upfield, suggesting he is intent on winning around the corner or with power. Becton quickly gains depth to mirror him upfield but does a nice job of refraining from fully committing his hips outside – that would leave him completely vulnerable to the inside.
Ojulari lifts his inside hand to draw Becton’s hands out so he can attempt to chop Becton’s outside arm and dip around the corner. Becton shuts the move down as he grabs Ojulari’s chest with his outside arm to slow him down and then reworks both hands into Ojulari’s upper body to gain control of the battle.
So-so rep against Azeez Ojulari
There was one rep where Ojulari got by Becton to make a play, coming in the run game:
This rep exemplifies the good and the bad of Becton’s style as a run blocker. The good is that he is able to create a massive amount of movement with his initial punch when he lands it (and he does land it very consistently). Look at how far he knocks Ojulari back.
The bad is that Becton tends to rely heavily on that initial movement. He is rarely able to latch onto his matchups, drive them downfield, and keep them out of the play. Usually, he charges up, puts everything he has into the initial shove, and that’s it.
Most of the time, this strategy works perfectly fine for Becton because he knocks his man so far that he can’t get back into the play even if Becton doesn’t touch him again.
However, sometimes defenders punish Becton for not maintaining the block, as Ojulari does here. After absorbing the initial blow, Ojulari halts his momentum and lets Becton stumble by, freeing himself up to defend the front-side edge.
This is not a terrible play by Becton. The initial push is great, and if Dan Feeney doesn’t allow penetration that influences Michael Carter to the outside, Ojulari might not have even touched Carter.
Regardless, this is a nice example of an area where Becton can get even better. Can you imagine how dominant he would be if he could maintain his blocks on defenders after tossing them back as far as he does?
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Mekhi Becton vs. Green Bay Packers
The blindside protection
Becton’s blindside protection was a prime ingredient of many Zach Wilson completions in Green Bay.
Becton’s man gets close to Wilson near the end of this play, but that’s only because Wilson drifted back as a result of pressure allowed by Greg Van Roten and George Fant.
Becton protected Wilson’s initial setpoint beautifully, first walling it off and then rotating his hips to send the defender past the pocket.
Winning against defensive tackles
Here is Becton winning a protection rep against a defensive tackle:
The play fake assists the offensive line here, as the defense bites hard on it and begins the rep with a two-gapping/read-the-play mentality rather than charging toward the quarterback. Becton takes advantage as he is able to grab the 4i-technique DT by the shoulder pads/sleeves (legal) while the DT is trying to read the play.
Becton dominates the rep as the DT is barely able to cross the line of scrimmage.
Winning against power
We have already seen Becton win against some outside pass-rush moves. Here, he wins against a power move:
To be fair, this is a really lousy bull rush. The defender gets barely any explosion off the ball, is high in his stance, and telegraphs the bull rush by raising his shoulders and extending his arms. Becton does what he is supposed to do and renders the rush completely ineffective.
Becton is so unafraid of this rusher that he essentially absorbs the rush with only his outside hand. In the midst of blocking, he turns his head inside to check if he needs to provide help, keeping his inside hand free and ready. He still eats up the rush while doing this.
The lone pressure relented
Becton has only been tagged with allowing one pressure this preseason, which came on the play where Wilson tossed a bomb to Corey Davis.
The offensive line sells an outside zone run on the play fake. From a pass protection standpoint, their goal is to simply get themselves between the defenders and the left hashes, driving the defense toward the right sideline.
Becton has a pre-snap advantage with the 4i-technique DT lined up over his inside shoulder. However, the DT makes a great play post-snap. He uses his outside arm to club Becton’s outside shoulder in an attempt to throw him inside, getting the angle to penetrate and pressure Wilson.
This block on a screen play went viral.
Becton has made a lot of highlight-reel plays like this one with the Jets. The trait that allows him to do it so often is his precise framing. Watch how Becton patiently climbs to the second level and sizes up the LB. He doesn’t just recklessly stomp out there with everything he’s got – he waits until he has the perfect angle to fire his hands. Once Becton aligns his chest with the LB’s inside shoulder, he shoots.
Do not completely write off Becton’s issues on the practice field – it’s worrisome that he has sputtered on such a consistent basis – but you can rest easy knowing that he has been a man amongst boys in the real-game action of the preseason.