Coming into the 2022 season, the Jets have made multiple moves to upgrade the talent and depth on the offensive line. The team added Pro-Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson to anchor their left-guard position which shifts Alijah Vera-Tucker to the right side. A rookie swing tackle Max Mitchell, standing at 6’6 and 299 pounds, was also added out of Louisiana in this past April’s draft.

Even with these additions, the most vital and interesting piece returning to the Jets offensive line this season is tackle Mekhi Becton. Becton has the all-world talent, size, and skill to be a foundational piece on the Jets offensive line for years to come. In 2020, Becton showed this off in both the passing and running aspects of the game. Facing off against star pass rushers like Myles Garret, Bradley Chubb, and Joey Bosa, Becton still posted a respectable 76.0 pass-blocking grade, according to PFF. In the running game, Becton displayed the traits that made him the 11th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. While only posting a 73.3 PFF grade as a run blocker, Becton constantly cleared lanes for the Jets and was poised for a second-year leap.

Despite all of the promise he has shown, Becton has been slowed down by injuries throughout his first two NFL seasons. He missed a chunk of the team’s offensive snaps in his rookie year due to a shoulder and chest injury. In 2021, Greg Van Roten rolled up on Becton in Week 1, dislocating his knee cap in the process. The injury ended his season, and was likely always going to end his season despite early reports. Still the doubting voices continue to grow louder.

Compared to last season, expectations are much lower for Becton as a player. The potential conditioning and health concerns remain, and due to the emergence of George Fant this past season, his spot at left tackle is far from guaranteed. With Becton reporting to OTAs this past week, Robert Saleh said it is ‘good” that the offensive lineman was present but would not elaborate on how far along Becton is in his recovery process. “Working with the performance staff and all that stuff, it’s no different than every other player that’s come through here. Whether they’re in shape or not, they’re going to work with the performance staff just to get a gage of where they’re at and then from there we’ll go”.

Saleh also spoke on Becton’s importance to the offensive line and what a healthy version of him could mean for the Jets. Saying that he is “fully aware” of all the talent Becton has and the asset he can be for the team. “Having him on the offensive line to move people off their spots so the running back has running lanes and the quarter back can sit in the pocket and buy a hitch. So yeah, he’s important, and if he takes care of his business, like we know he can, he can be transcendent, ” said Saleh. He also stated that Becton has the “right mindset” and just has to “piece it all together.”

Mike LaFleur agreed with Saleh’s sentiments, saying how the offensive tackle looks “good” and that Becton needs to put “himself in the best situation for him going forward.” LaFleur then spoke about the upcoming position battle between Fant and Becton during training camp, saying that a situation like this “always plays itself out” in the end. “What you want in an NFL building is you want that competition in any building, at any level. The more competition you can get, obviously it’s going to be a little more stress on the particular player, but that stress is a good thing, and the guys that can battle through that and come to work and compete every day are only going to get themselves better. In turn, it’s going to make the Jets better,” said LaFleur.

Expanding on this, LaFleur said that he wants “versatility” in terms of the offensive line. “Saleh may not give more info on that, but we feel confident in what we’re going to do at the tackle position and again all those other positions. AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker) was a left guard all last year just like that, “Yeah, I can play right guard.”… So, left tackle, right tackle, for sure everyone would like to be at one spot, but these guys are talented enough to where we can figure it out. We have to make sure we do it the right way.”

Wearing a shirt sporting the words “Big Bust”, Becton stated that he is coming back with a “chip on his shoulder” that is partially inspired by those doubting him on social media. “It just adds fuel to the fire. That’s all it do,” said Becton. The third-year offensive tackle also stated that he does not care about whether he is on the left or right side of the line, saying that he is “open to playing wherever, as long as I’m on the field.”

At this point of the offseason, it is impossible to determine what the full outlook off Becton’s season will look like. The possibility of Becton dominating and looking like an All-Pro is just as equal as injuries and an inability to stay on the field hurting Becton’s future with the Jets. Either outcome has wide reaching ramifications for the team in the present and the future. A successful, dominant season from Becton, whether it is at left or right tackle, will help the Jets solidify the core of their offensive line for years to come and give Zach Wilson the best shot possible to be kept upright. On the other hand, another lost season for Becton most likely means the Jets are spending premium free agency or draft capital to replace their former first round pick, hurting the overall growth of the offense.

If Becton is to believed, though, he is going to prove his coaches right and his doubters wrong this upcoming season. Speaking about these critics, Becton said “I’m gonna make them eat their words.” The Jets and their fans must hope that this is the case, as the offensive tackle delivering on this promise will only mean positive things for the offense and the organization as a whole.