Mekhi Becton will be the New York Jets' starting right tackle this season, and that appears to be fine with the former first-round pick who was expected to man his quarterback’s blind side on the left for the next decade when he was selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“It don’t really matter to me,” Becton said after the Jets' first training camp practice Wednesday. “Whether it’s right or left, I don’t really care as long as I’m on the five, on the field,”
Earlier in the day, coach Robert Saleh said that there won’t be a competition at left tackle. George Fant, who started 15 games there in 2021 after Becton sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers, will again man the left side.
“We didn’t want those guys jumping back and forth (during training camp), we made a decision that was best for the team,” Saleh said. “George had a fantastic year last year at left tackle. Mekhi is a gifted young man who can do both.”
It had been expected that Becton and Fant would compete for the coveted left tackle position. Becton, the No. 11 overall pick in 2020, stepped into the starting left tackle position as a rookie, though he battled injuries and weight issues. When he was activated off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list Tuesday, it seemed to clear the path for Becton to return to his old position.
Mekhi Becton said it felt “great” to be on the field for the first time since September. “I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow.” Said he’s not worried about being switched to RT. He’s focused on making it through a full season. pic.twitter.com/hUanufULLV
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) July 27, 2022
Fant, though, allowed just one sack, had only four penalties and a 71.1 grade per Pro Football Focus last season, his fifth in the NFL and second with the Jets. The 30-year-old was also activated from the PUP list Tuesday and practiced Wednesday after recovering from a knee injury.
Saleh said there was little difference between playing the left or right side because top pass rushers will “find the weak link” on the offensive line. He added that Fant feels more comfortable and performs better on the left side.
“Having two bookends like we do, we’re very fortunate,” he said.
.@GeorgeFant74 is back 💪 pic.twitter.com/eXfcIrpZxq
— New York Jets (@nyjets) July 27, 2022
Becton’s conditioning was a source of much speculation this offseason. First, he didn’t attend OTAs to remain home for the birth of his first child. Then at minicamp, Becton looked out of shape and only worked on the side with the performance staff.
He said at the time he would make critics “eat their words” this season.
Becton appeared to be in excellent shape and fully recovered from his knee injury when he arrived Tuesday for camp.
“I feel really good where I’m at right now,” Becton said.
Saleh said he was happy to have a healthy Becton back on the offensive line.
“We all recognize he’s pretty damn good,” Saleh said. “He’s a gifted athlete. He’s a gifted man. I’m really excited about the direction he’s going.”
The Jets moved second-year guard Alijah Vera-Tucker from the left side to the right this season, allowing Laken Tomlinson — a veteran free agent acquisition — to play his preferred left guard position. Saleh said he’s excited about the Jets' front five, which also includes center Connor McGovern.
O-Line reporting for duty 💪 pic.twitter.com/3txXuYWm2f
— New York Jets (@nyjets) July 26, 2022
“It’s a pretty damn good offensive line,” Saleh said. “And a healthy Mekhi is special.”
A healthy, happy and motivated Mekhi Becton could be a huge difference maker for the Jets, who are looking to vastly improve on a 4-13 season a year ago.