MOBILE, Ala. – Mekhi Becton has a fight on his hands.
The 2020 first-round pick is going to have to beat out George Fant for his old job as starting left tackle, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl.
“George Fant stepped in at that left tackle spot, did a wonderful job and he’s earned the right to be part of that discussion at left tackle,” Saleh said. “I’ve told George he’s got a chance to maintain that position. It’s the same thing for Mekhi. He’s got to come in and he’s got to reassert himself into the starting lineup. “
Becton injured his knee in the Jets’ Week 1 loss to the Panthers and had surgery to repair it. At the time, the Jets said they expected him to be back in four to eight weeks. He ended up missing the entire season. Fant started in Becton’s place and played well. That led to Saleh’s statement on Tuesday, which is only a surprise because of Becton’s draft position. He was the No. 11-overall pick in 2020 and the Jets celebrated his big blocks as a rookie.
As promising as Becton was as a rookie, durability was a concern then. He missed all or most of five games that season. His injury history and also his struggles to keep his weight under control have worn on the Jets and this surely is a message to try to motivate Becton.
Both Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas have said this will be a huge offseason for Becton.
“It’s a really good problem to have, with what George has been able to do and what we know we can get out of Mekhi here as he attacks this offseason,” Saleh said. “It’s a big offseason for him in the sense that he’s got to be able to put together an OTAs and a training camp and give himself a chance during the season. We’re excited about Mekhi and the direction he’s going. We’re super excited about George and we feel like we’ve got a really good tackle combo. ”
Fant opened last season as the starting right tackle, having beaten out Morgan Moses for the job. When Becton was injured in the second half of Week 1, he moved to left tackle and never looked back.
Fant has earned the right to try to keep his job as left tackle, Saleh said.
“It would be a disservice to George and the work he put in and the things he was able to do this year to just tell George that he can not compete for that job,” Saleh said. “Like I said, it’s a great problem. We’re kind of spoiled in that regard that we have two really, really good tackles and it’s going to be great to watch those guys compete. ”
Saleh was not critical of Becton. The Jets have chosen their words carefully when talking about him, but they are now trying to light a fire under him. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur was critical of Becton during training camp and it was clear then the coaching staff had questions about Becton, who was drafted by Douglas but with the previous coaches in place.
Becton is listed at 6-foot-7 and 363 pounds, but he has weighed more and the Jets fined him as a rookie in 2020 due to his weight. His weight might have been an issue again in 2021, as he was unable to do much as he recovered from knee surgery.
“He’s not the first nor the last that’s going to have a second year that does not go the way you want it to whether it’s injury or for one reason or another the second season does not go as planned,” Saleh said.
As for his ability to play right tackle, Saleh said he believes Becton can do it if Fant beats him out for the left tackle spot.
“I think Mekhi has the skill-set to do whatever he wants,” Saleh said. “He’s just got to put his mind to it.”