Losing Mekhi Becton and his all-world potential is no good, but the Jets’ overall ceiling remains the same
August. It’s a very particular month in the life of an ordinary Jets fan: Football comes back, the excitement starts to poke around and the feeling is that the new season is definitely going to be better than the last one.
Then, the inevitable happens, putting everyone on their knees: an unpleasant injury to a key player.
Bad news. Awful news.
But such news should not, by any means, make Jets fans desperate. Despite Becton being a player with elite potential, the bottom line remains the same: It is Zach Wilson who will dictate how far the Jets will go in 2022.
Undoubtedly, one can argue that Wilson’s chance of leading the Jets to their optimum result depends on who is around him. That is more than fair.
But the point here is not that Becton is not important. He is. And he has all-world potential. But, considering the grand scheme of things, Mekhi Becton is replaceable (unlike Carl Lawson in 2021, for example).
Losing Becton, individually, doesn’t impact Wilson’s and the Jets’ overall 2022 ceiling. I will explain.
The offensive line
First, one must consider Becton’s position: he’s an offensive lineman.
The offensive line is the ultimate unit, considering any sport. It’s rare to see good to great offensive linemen in a terrible group, and vice-versa. Individuals go as far as the group goes.
Therefore, a good unit helps less talented players play better. The Jets, considering whoever is left there and the coaching staff, seem to have a good offensive line unit.
Of course, players who are true liabilities will continue to be so no matter the group. Those guys must be excluded from the reason I’m trying to paint here.
On the other hand, average players can often outreach their potential when playing in a good offensive line. And I firmly believe the Jets will start a solid player at right tackle, be it an in-house youngster or a brought-in veteran.
If Joe Douglas and the Jets front office can bring in a solid player to replace Becton (a guy similar to Morgan Moses, for example), the unit – and, more importantly, the offense – will be fine.
Considering that 3/5 of the OL will be playing together for the second year now, under OL coach John Benton, the unit no longer needs an elite player to elevate its level, but they need a stable piece that won’t let the ball drop.
Becton, undeniably, had the potential to uplift this unit into a top-5 type of OL.
But for it to happen, Mekhi himself would have to, first, reach his potential – which was far from a foregone conclusion, considering (i) injuries and the fact that (ii) he was playing on the right side for the first time in the NFL.
All things considered, an elite right tackle is not a prerequisite for a team to win the Super Bowl.
A solid, reliable group upfront can do the trick. And the Jets will be able to field that.
Scheme and other ways around it
Again, everything that’s said here is considering that the Jets won’t play a major liability at right tackle (as I believe Connor McDermott would be over a 17-game stretch).
They will go with an average player.
Average players have deficiencies. Think of Moses, again. Oftentimes the Jets helped him with speed rushers by chipping with the TE or running-back – and it was mostly left unnoticed by fans because Moses did his job for the most part.
That’s the daily routine of basically every team in the NFL: nobody has 5 very good starters. It’s extremely rare. So coaches and players have to adapt. That will be the case with the Jets.
Besides that, as it’s commonly pointed out, the Jets’ scheme starts by running the football well. If LaFleur and Co. can run the ball, everything pass-pro-wise will become a lot easier. Consequently, whoever starts at RT will have an easier life.
Another point: Zach Wilson excels in quicker developing plays. That’s where he’s at his best. So, there’s an argument to be made that the Jets should be able to get rid of the football quickly, focusing on quick-game stuff and rhythm throws.
A plan like that can do wonders for any tackle.
When throwing in less than 2.5 seconds over five yards downfield, look at where Zach Wilson ranked in the NFL:
1st in accuracy, 10th in success rate, 12th in YPA, and 14th in EPA/att
— Sharp Football Analysis (@SharpFBAnalysis) August 4, 2022
All in all, the Jets don’t need Becton’s all-star potential to win. Considering scheme, play style, and the OL unit itself, all New York needs is a solid, reliable player that’s willing to be just a functioning part of a well-oiled machine.
Looking back: 49ers, Bengals
Since Jets fans love comparing this 2022 team to the 2019 San Francisco 49ers and 2021 Cincinnati Bengals, let’s take a look at each of those teams’ starters in the offensive line in their respective Super Bowl appearances:
- LT: Joe Staley
- LG: Laken Tomlinson
- C: Ben Garland
- RG: Mike Person
- RT: Mike McGlinchey
- LT: Jonah Williams
- LG: Quinton Spain
- C: Trey Hopkins
- RG: Hakeem Adeniji
- RT: Isaiah Prince
Neither one of those groups is better than what the Jets currently have without Mekhi Becton. That is a fact.
Disclaimer: This article is not an attempt to say that the offensive line is not important in today’s game. No. It remains crucial. Playmakers need the ball in their hands, absolutely, but it’s the offensive line who’s responsible for giving them the chance to make plays.
Nonetheless, it feels as if, after watching years of one of the poorest offensive lines in the NFL, Jets fans are overvaluing the importance of an elite OL group to win in the NFL. A good line is a must. An elite one is not.
Forget about the need for an All-Pro offensive line unit. All the Jets need are reliable players that won’t get in Zach Wilson’s way, allowing the most important player on this team to do his job on schedule.
The highlights can be left for No. 2, who seems ready to perform in decisive moments, such as the 3rd down analyzed below:
Again, when Wilson trusts you, he's very good. This is great anticipation. Great coverage by MC.
Berrios — great hands and awareness knowing where the marker is. Hard to run a curl from slot vs. Press man. https://t.co/Cy2YzxRHQU
— Vitor (@VitorPaivaM) August 7, 2022
Stability and execution: those are the keywords.