Amid offensive line question marks, Mekhi Becton offers the New York Jets an opportunity for a firm solution at right tackle
Throughout the New York Jets‘ preseason, the offensive line has been perhaps the most common talking point surrounding the team (outside of Aaron Rodgers). Whether the discussions have been about the unit’s concerning depth or who will start, the Jets still have not found any solidified answers.
The tackle positions are generating the most questions. The guard spots are locked down by Alijah Vera Tucker and Laken Tomlinson, respectively; the only concern surrounding them has been their recent injuries. And the center position, whether it is second-round pick Joe Tippmann or three-year starter Connor McGovern, will feature a player the Jets can count on for solid production.
Regarding the tackles, injuries and poor production are causing a plethora of issues. Duane Brown, the presumed starting left tackle, has not practiced during training camp as he recovers from a shoulder injury. The starting tackles, Billy Turner and Max Mitchell, have struggled most of the preseason.
While this is cause for concern, a ready-made solution exists for the Jets at right tackle.
Mekhi Becton, arguably the most talented offensive lineman on the Jets’ roster, is starting to look very close to the player he was in 2020.
Becton’s tenure with the Jets has been up and down, to say the least. He had a promising rookie season in 2020 and looked to be on a star trajectory. Becton dominated the running game, consistently leveling players in the open field. And while he was not perfect in pass protection, he showed signs of sky-high potential as he was able to shut down pass rushers like Justin Houston and Joey Bosa at times.
Things went downhill from there, though. The coaching staff openly questioned Becton’s work ethic and commitment to improving for the better part of two seasons. To make matters worse, Becton suffered two knee injuries that kept him out of game action for both 2021 and 2022.
Due to the struggles of the past two seasons, 2023 is shaping up to be a make-or-break season for the Louisville product. It did not get off to the best start, as Becton made public comments about his displeasure of playing right tackle and was rumored as a trade or cut candidate before training camp started.
The questions surrounding Becton’s performance are quickly disappearing, though. Wanting the offensive tackle to get his feet underneath him, the Jets started Becton off slowly and have slowly ramped him up. Things appear to be going as planned.
Prior to the week of the Jets’ third preseason game, the Jets had Becton working as the second-team left tackle. He impressed in each of the Jets’ first two preseason games and saw a large increase in snaps from the first game (7, 15%) to the second (27, 40%).
In both games, Becton was highly effective as a run blocker, getting out in space and clearing lanes like he did in his rookie year. And while he did let up a sack in the Carolina game (though Trystan Colon deserves partial blame), he looked mostly comfortable in pass protection.
Ahead of the third preseason game against Tampa Bay, the Jets moved Becton to right tackle. He looked comfortable there in Thursday’s practice and was set to start on the right side against Tampa Bay. This would give Becton a chance to show the Jets he can be a potential solution to the offensive line’s greatest problem.
Becton rose to the occasion. Showing he is capable of holding up on the right side, Becton allowed zero pressures over 19 pass-blocking snaps and dominated in the run game. He played 47% of the Jets’ offensive snaps (25 total), his highest percentage of the preseason so far.
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) August 20, 2023
After the game, head coach Robert Saleh was complimentary of Becton’s play.
“I thought he came in and played with a lot of energy, a lot of juice. We didn’t have a lot of plays on offense, but I thought he did a really nice job. I’m looking forward to looking at that tape, but watching it live, it felt really good,” said Saleh.
Considering his level of play this preseason, it’s time for the Jets to take the next step with Becton: giving him first-team reps at right tackle in practice and next week’s game against the Giants.
Turner and Mitchell simply have not been good enough. Becton has the talent to elevate the Jets’ unit and allow the offense to operate at its highest level.
Yes, Becton still has some questions to answer. He hasn’t played a full game and needs to show he can perform consistently against starters.
Regardless, he has 100 percent earned the opportunity to take the starting right tackle job. Becton has done his part throughout training camp and the preseason, as he’s stayed healthy and performed tremendously in the preseason games. Against Tampa Bay, Becton showed he can handle a switch to the right side.
The other candidates for the right tackle job have only caused more concern the more they have played. Becton, on the other hand, is trending up.
Despite his question marks, Becton remains the Jets’ best option at right tackle, and it’s time for the Jets to respond accordingly.