One of the biggest dilemmas the New York Jets currently have is the fascinating battle that is set to take place at left tackle. The Jets have two talented starting-caliber offensive tackles in Mekhi Becton and George Fant. The question is, who will start on the left side and who will move to the right?
Both players were acquired in 2020, Joe Douglas’ first full offseason as the Jets general manager. That season, Becton showed tremendous promise and potential as a rookie. Throughout the 2020 season, his one concern was injuries, carried over into 2021 as he started one game all year after a knee injury in Week 1. That led to an opportunity for Fant to play where he has stated he feels most comfortable, left tackle. Fant was arguably the Jets’ best player a season ago. He did an incredible job protecting the blindside of Zach Wilson in his rookie year.
All of this culminates to the big unknown: Will the Jets keep Fant where he is at his best? Or, give their 11th overall selection from just two years ago a chance to regain his position?
Why Fant makes sense at left tackle:
Starting with Fant, Douglas and the New York Jets coaching staff led by head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur seem to be big fans of his ability. It has been reported the new staff last season thought very highly of Fant. With his basketball background, he has the athleticism to fit in LaFleur’s zone running scheme effortlessly. Fant was rock-solid throughout the 2021 season as a pass blocker, allowing just one sack. Over 889 snaps, he only allowed 18 pressures per PFF which placed him seventh among tackles. Finally, he only committed four penalties on the year.
Fant is entering the final year of his current contract. While speaking with the media this spring, Fant made it known:
“I want to be here for the rest of my career.” He went on to state discussions have taken place, “We’ve definitely had some conversations, I know my agent has talked to the Jets.”
While talking about the left tackle job with reporters, Fant had this to say:
“Obviously, I’d like to have one spot and stick with it, I feel I’m a natural left tackle, I’m more natural on the left. I’m going to do all in my power to stay there, but I can only control what I can control. I’ll do everything I can, I’ll do all I can, but I can’t worry too much about it.”
Why Becton makes sense at left tackle:
With Becton, this time a year ago, it seemed like he was set to be the Jets’ left tackle for the long haul. Now, with a new coaching staff in place entering its second year, he has to prove he can regain his 2020 form. The physical and athletic ability has always been there. Now, it comes down to availability. If Becton is on the field throughout training camp, he has all the talent to ultimately take the job back from possibly the Jets’ best player in 2021.
One aspect of Becton’s game that he has going for him is his difference-making run blocking. Becton can use his significant size to move defenders in the running game. Initially, one of the more compelling reasons to keep Becton at left tackle was having him alongside another first-round pick, Alijah Vera-Tucker. The two could be a dominant run-blocking duo.
However, with the Laken Tomlinson signing in free agency, Vera-Tucker will now be starting at right guard. As a result, this leads to an exciting thought — Becton and Vera-Tucker could be on the same side of the line if Fant wins the left tackle job.
Ultimately, the New York Jets have two offensive tackles they can feel excited about, barring injury. Based on the way things currently look, it seems like Fant has the better chance of starting at left tackle.
Becton has experience from college playing right tackle. He and Vera-Tucker could be very impactful in the running game on the right side of the line.
This allows Fant to play where he is at his best. He and the coaching staff can continue to build on the success they started last year. Fant can continue to help Wilson as a pass-blocker entering a big second year.