- Former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Damien Woody is concerned about New York Jets left tackle Mekhi Becton’s health
- The Louisville product missed almost all of the 2021 season with a knee injury and is battling weight problems
- The Jets need to take a stricter approach if they want Becton to live up to expectations
Lost in the New York Jets’ dismal 2021 season, at least on a national scale, was the absence of young left tackle Mekhi Becton. Fans and pundits spent too much time criticizing rookie quarterback Zach Wilson while seemingly forgetting the second overall pick had the Louisville product protecting his blindside for only 48 snaps.
For the last four months, it’s been radio silence regarding Becton, the 11th overall pick in 2020 who suffered a knee injury early in his second season. Although the Jets initially said the 6-foot-7, 363-pound lineman would likely return in late October or early November, the team eventually stopped providing meaningful updates. Becton never made it back to the field amid the Jets’ 4-13 finish.
Now, Becton is facing questions about his durability and his weight, and ESPN’s Damien Woody is willing to step in and help where he can.
ESPN’s Damien Woody is concerned about Mekhi Becton’s durability and weight
When the Jets selected Becton in the 2020 NFL Draft, the early name thrown around was D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Fans hoped the All-ACC standout would have the success at left tackle that Ferguson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who never missed a start from 2006-15, once did for the not-always-lovable losers.
Woody, who started alongside Ferguson on the Jets’ offensive line from 2008-10, clearly had the same thought. In a recent interview with the New York Post, the ESPN analyst said Becton needs to try following in Ferguson’s footsteps and do his best to stay on the field.
“This offseason is huge for [Becton] because he needs to get in the best shape of his life — mentally, physically be in a good spot — so when he comes back for the offseason program and OTAs and minicamps he can hit the ground running and be ready to go.”Damien Woody
The Post reported that Becton is having weight problems, although the outlet did not say a number. The Jets’ official website lists Becton at 363 pounds.
Woody, a center and guard who played around 330 pounds during his 12 seasons, said he plans to talk with Becton about his weight.
“I want to just tell him from personal experience that I’ve been there,” Woody said. “[Weight issues] might be a sensitive subject for him. Probably is. It was for me when I was playing. My advice to him is, ‘You’re strong as an ox, but get in the best physical shape that you can possibly can because when you’re there, that takes your game to another level.’”
The Jets have had radio silence regarding Becton’s status for months
It isn’t Becton’s fault that he suffered a dislocated right kneecap in Week 1. As of publication, it is unknown what prevented him from returning to the field at any point in the 2021 season.
With that said, the Jets failed to handle the Becton situation properly. The Post reported the team did not make the second-year lineman available to reporters late in the season despite constant requests. Several NFL teams made injured players available during end-of-season interviews earlier this month. For example, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey addressed reporters despite suffering a season-ending ankle injury in November.
It is not known if Becton refused to talk to the media or if the team chose to instead supply other players. When The Post requested private interviews with the second-year lineman, the organization reportedly declined to make him available.
Plenty of athletes hate the press conference setting, a reality tennis star Naomi Osaka highlighted last year. However, the Jets’ decision to keep Becton hidden from inquiring reporters is a terrible look, especially with questions now raising about his future in Green and White.
The Jets, at least publicly, aren’t writing Becton off just yet
In January, Jets general manager Joe Douglas openly told reporters he expects big things from Becton in 2022. That is absolutely the right thing to say publicly, especially as the talented lineman enters a pivotal season; the Jets must decide in the spring of 2023 if they plan to pick up Becton’s fifth-year option.
Privately, the Jets might want to start thinking about backup plans. Douglas is expected to use at least one of his two first-round picks on another offensive tackle — Alabama’s Evan Neal and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross are both realistic options at No. 4 overall — and can also address the position in free agency.
The Jets have five picks in the draft’s first three days and another four on the third day. Few would fault Douglas if he used a mid-round draft pick on another tackle — Louisiana’s Max Mitchell and Arizona State’s Kellen Diesch each come to mind — hoping that player would eventually replace Becton if things don’t work out.
Woody is committed to ensuring things do work out for Becton. For Wilson’s sake, the two-time Super Bowl champion should hope his words get through.