Florham Park was buzzing Wednesday. The Jets came together for their first full-team training camp practice of the year. Head coach Robert Saleh’s crew was ready to provide clarity to the various headlines that surrounded the team this offseason, one of which regarded the left tackle position.
Would Mekhi Becton return to the blindside after missing virtually all of last season with a knee injury? Even though he clearly showed up to June’s minicamp out of shape? Would veteran George Fant retain that role after impressing in Becton’s absence last year?
We finally have an answer … at least for right now.
“We don’t want those guys jumping back and forth,” Saleh told the media following Wednesday’s practice. “We made the decision that was best for the team. George had a fantastic year last year at left tackle. Mekhi is a gifted young man. It doesn’t mean that Mekhi’s left tackle days are over.”
Saleh speculated at the Senior Bowl back in February that the left tackle job was Fant’s to lose. At that time, there were various uncertainties with Becton and his perceived commitment issues.
Although Becton has now reported to training camp in much better shape, the coaching staff’s immediate outlook on the situation doesn’t change. Saleh and his assistants saw enough from Fant last year and believe this is the best possible scenario for a line that must help maximize the offense’s young talent. If Fant, who just had offseason knee surgery, struggles in camp or suffers an injury, the Jets have Becton, Conor McDermott, and rookie Max Mitchell as relief options.
When asked about his role, Becton expressed maturity. The 2020 No. 11 overall pick just wants to see the field again after missing 16 games last year.
“I’m just trying to get on the field and play a full season,” Becton said. “That’s really my mindset. Whether it’s right or left, I don’t even care as long as I’m one of the five on the field.”
Those five linemen will have daunting tasks in 2022, one of which will be to protect young quarterback Zach Wilson. Luckily, the Jets may have gotten it right with their offensive front. The interior — left guard Laken Tomlinson, center Connor McGovern, and right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker — could be one of the league’s best. The two tackle spots have great potential too, but this team desperately needs both Fant and Becton to remain healthy.
Listen to ESNY’s Wide Right Podcast on Apple here or on Spotify here.