As much as fans wanted him to succeed, Mekhi Becton’s return has been mired in struggles
Heading into the 2023 season, the New York Jets’ biggest concern with Mekhi Becton was his health. It was pretty much taken for granted that he would be the same dominant player as he was in his rookie year so long as stayed on the field.
After 10 weeks, Becton is, shockingly, still on the field. He’s switched back to left tackle, the position he so coveted during the offseason. Other tackles have come and gone, including Duane Brown, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Billy Turner, but Becton is still standing.
However, the fact that Becton is there does not say anything about how he is performing. Laken Tomlinson is also there, and Jets fans have plenty to say about his performance. It’s sort of taken for granted that Becton is dominating on his end.
But is he really?
By the numbers
The main statistics available for offensive linemen are for pass-blocking rather than run-blocking. For Becton, those numbers do not paint a pretty picture.
According to Pro Football Focus, Becton ranks 57th out of 68 qualified tackles with an 8.24% pressure rate, considerably worse than the 6.1% average for tackles. He ranks 53rd with a 2.66% sack-plus-hit rate; the average is 1.85%. In true pass sets, he ranks 54th and 49th in those categories, respectively.
Those are not just below average; they are much worse. Becton’s six sacks allowed are tied for the second-most among tackles, as he allowed one in six of his last seven games. The fact that his 68.9 PFF pass-blocking grade ranks 33rd is incongruent with his actual statistics.
NFL Next Gen Stats presents a similarly bleak outlook. Among 67 qualified tackles, Becton’s 41 pressures rank 10th-most. He’s allowed the 15th-worst pressure rate (11.5%) and the ninth-worst sack rate (1.7%).
However, there are a few mitigating factors here according to the numbers.
Next Gen Stats provides a statistic called “Average Peak Pressure Probability,” which evaluates the likelihood of a player’s block resulting in pressure based on the quality of the block – regardless of the quarterback’s actions. Essentially, it is independent of the time to throw or the quarterback’s movement.
Becton ranks 37th out of 67 in that area (45th percentile), which is closer to average than his other metrics. This is largely because he has a difficult job within the Jets’ offense relative to most other tackles. His average dropback time for which he needs to block is 3.15 seconds, ranking as the 12th-longest among tackles. The Jets also don’t give Becton much help. He’s blocked one-on-one on 81.7% of his pass-blocking snaps, ranking 14th-highest.
Therefore, it does seem that Becton is victimized by his quarterback and surroundings. If Becton’s actual pass block quality (based on NGS’ Average Peak Pressure Probability) is in the 45th percentile among tackles, his pressure rates should reflect that. Instead, his pressure rate is significantly worse (21st percentile). That means he is being hit with a lot of pressures that occur largely because of how long the ball is being held and how frequently he has to block one-on-one.
Interestingly, it was the opposite in 2020, Becton’s so-called dominant rookie year. Even then, his pressure rate was worse than average (40th out of 65 qualified tackles, per Next Gen Stats), as was his sack rate (48th). He actually went one-on-one far less that season (78.9% of the time, 41st), and his one-on-one pressure rate ranked 42nd. Most importantly, he ranked 48th in average peak probability, meaning that his blocks should have caused more pressure than they did.
Nevertheless, even that 45th percentile ranking this year is not great, and it’s certainly not elite. The best that can be said about Becton is that with competent quarterback play, he would probably look somewhat better.
For run-blocking, there really aren’t statistics other than PFF grades, which aren’t really statistics at all. Still, among 68 qualified tackles, Becton’s 53.4 run-blocking grade ranks 53rd. For an area that was supposed to be his greatest strength, that number is pretty abysmal.
This section was written by Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania.
Do these numbers back up what the film shows?
It’s so easy to bash the numbers and say that Becton is doing a great job, particularly when that was the preconceived narrative heading into the season. However, when watching the film, there are many examples of Becton suffering clean one-on-one losses that resulted in back-breaking plays for the Jets. His tape seems to line up more closely with his low-ranking pressure rate than his more middling ranking in NGS’ Average Peak Pressure Probability.
This strip sack allowed by Becton against the Raiders is one that cannot be excused in any way. Becton gets cooked around the edge and allows his man to bend the corner back up toward the quarterback’s set point, where he hits Zach Wilson from behind for a strip sack. You could argue Wilson should have gotten the ball out earlier, but it doesn’t change the fact that Becton loses this rep about as quickly and cleanly as possible. (Give Becton credit for hustling back to recover the fumble.)
Becton also allowed a strip sack against the Giants. Once again, you can make the argument that Wilson could have avoided the fumble or sack, but Becton still got beat quickly to allow dangerous pressure from the back side before Wilson even hit the depth of his dropback.
This sack is another clean loss by Becton off the jump, as he misses with his two-hand punch and gets beaten inside. It takes a while for the rusher to get home as he finds himself caught in the traffic, so this probably shouldn’t have been a sack, but Becton still lost this rep very quickly to allow the rusher immediate access into the backfield.
Matched up against Chris Jones on the edge, this is another fairly clean loss where Becton does not do much to slow the rusher down.
Yet again, Becton does not show much resistance as he gets cooked by Matthew Judon on a spin move to allow a safety.
Despite the numbers that suggest Becton’s pressure and sack totals may be underselling him, most of his biggest mistakes are purely on him and cannot be written off as the fault of another party. All five of these sacks were clean losses in which Becton lost his rep without much of a fight.
In the run game, Becton has been inconsistent.
On this play, Becton overcommits to the first-level double team and thus fails to peel off and pick up the linebacker, leaving him unblocked to stuff Breece Hall on third-and-1.
Becton meanders at the second level, and instead of finding a block, he stops himself in the running lane while spinning around back toward the line of scrimmage. This causes Dalvin Cook to run into him, negating a massive hole that could have resulted in an enormous gain. If Becton committed himself to assisting on Garrett Wilson’s man, he would have easily plowed the defender outside to pave a highway-sized road for Cook.
The numbers paint an unimpressive picture for Becton, and the film largely backs the numbers up. There are plenty of mistakes to be found, and while Becton certainly is not helped by his surroundings, many of his losses are still clean mistakes that fall entirely on him.
On top of his poor pass-blocking and run-blocking numbers, Becton is also tied for the fourth-most penalties among tackles with eight.
While Becton’s durability has been a pleasant surprise, his play on the field still leaves a lot to be desired.[sc name=”nextarticle” link=”https://jetsxfactor.com/2023/11/14/ny-jets-personnel-changes-foolish-make/” text=”3 personnel changes the NY Jets would be foolish not to make”)
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