Mekhi Becton has an undeniable future with the New York Jets. But with injuries interrupting, what should they do upon returning?
A lot of uncertainty surrounds the 2020 New York Jets. Mekhi Becton is far from that firestorm.
For all the faults of the modern Jets (0-9), Becton is perhaps as far removed from the gridiron cesspool as one from New York possibly can. Chosen 11th in April’s draft, the blocker will forever go down as the first pick of the Joe Douglas era. Thus far, Becton has fulfilled the hype that caused Douglas and New York decisionmakers to pass on several high-profile receivers. He has earned positive reviews from both his teammates and the coaching staff. Becton recently went viral for a big block laid down in the Jets’ recent showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs, when he lifted the 260-pound defender Frank Clark off his feet in making a block.
“I don’t care who you are, he’s going to try to finish you,” running back Frank Gore said of Becton, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. “He’s an old-school lineman, a Larry Allen-type guy. Larry Allen, that’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t want to speak too fast because he’s a young player, but he’s got a chance to do special things.”
“With Mekhi, he’s so big, he’s so powerful,” head coach Adam Gase noted, per Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com. “Once he gets his momentum going and he has his hands on you, it’s hard to redirect and it’s hard to get off him.”
But even Becton isn’t fully immune to the Jets’ struggles. Injuries have taken their toll on Becton in the early going, including a chest injury in the early stages of Monday’s 30-27 loss to the New England Patriots. The ailment, which limited him to only 15 snaps in the nationally televised showdown, follows a shoulder injury sustained during the Week 3 defeat in Indianapolis. Just four days later, Becton was held out of the starting lineup in a Thursday night game against Denver but nonetheless dressed and entered the tilt when his replacement, sophomore Chuma Edoga, was lost to an injury of his own. Becton appeared to reinjure his shoulder against the Broncos and missed the Jets’ next two games entirely before returning for their home tilt against Buffalo in Week 7.
Heading into their bye, the Jets have been somewhat mum on Becton’s status moving forward, listing Becton as questionable after he visited the medical tent before going back to the locker room. Perhaps the best update has come from Becton himself, who mentioned that he was “good” and thanked fans for inquiring about his condition on Twitter.
Im good everybody thanks for asking!! 🤘🏾💯
— Trending Topic 🤫 (@BigTicket73) November 10, 2020
But the Jets have an uncomfortable question…well, one of many uncomfortable questions that they’ll need to answer going forward: would they just be better off putting Becton in storage and waiting for happier times in 2021?
There are no indications that the Jets plan to make such a move, nor has Becton stated that he wants or would sit down the final seven games of this woebegone campaign. But there are certainly reasons why such an approach would be understandable.
Becton is perhaps far too great a competitor to buy into such a concept, but his injuries certainly give the Jets and their medical staff something to think about. The team already somewhat tempted fate by letting him into the Denver game, and this New England issue sounds somewhat more concerning.
According to head coach Adam Gase, Becton’s injury “caused him to have difficulty breathing”, per notes provided by the Jets.
“We went through all kinds of things to make sure that he was good,” Gase said. “Really at the end of the day, we decided not to put him back in the game, just making sure that he was okay. We were concerned that maybe there was something there we couldn’t figure out. We just wanted to make sure our trainers and doctors did everything they could to rule out any issues there. It’s no kind of muscle injury or anything like that, so we’ll take this next week to really kind of keep looking at that and hopefully get to a point where he’ll be ready to go for the next game.”
Gase didn’t want to play doctor but mentioned that the team medical staff didn’t say it was a lung or heart-related issue. He reiterated the team is “trying to put him in position to where he can play the next game”.
Becton is in a rare spot where his status in 2021, and likely beyond if he keeps playing at the current rate he’s created, is in no question. He’s one of the silver linings of this team and is ready to protect the franchise quarterback for years to come…be it Sam Darnold, Trevor Lawrence, or an unnamed third party.
There’s something tempting about giving Becton seven more consequence-free opportunities at game speed, just to truly hone his skills in his rookie campaign. But there have already been three occasions (Indianapolis, Denver, New England) where Becton has had to miss time due to injury. Sure, it’d be great for Becton to develop more chemistry with the offense…whoever sticks around for 2021, anyway…but at what point do you pull the plug on trying to salvage a lost season through him? When is the risk too great to keep the damage confined to this season alone?
Again, there’s no indication that any side has considered a Becton shutdown. If anything, Douglas indicated in comments made prior to Monday that his original draft pick wants to get in as many downs as possible before the year is out and that he wants to help the Jets put together anything that could be considered a positive or progress in 2020.
“He truly cares, and he truly wants to help,” Douglas said in notes provided by the Jets. “I think he is a player that is going to help us long-term. We’re excited about working with him every day, because you’re talking about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart, he’s tough as nails, and has a rare size and athleticism. And still, he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do physically. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be, so we’ve made it our mission to sort of bend over backwards to try to help him reach his goals.”
The Jets return to action on November 22 against on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags