After a trying football year, Mekhi Becton was on the long road back until he cruelly found another roadblock.
Becton, the 6-7 giant who appeared in one game last season after sustaining a right knee cap dislocation in Week 1 at Carolina, went down on Monday early in a training camp practice and realized immediately something was wrong with the same right knee. While the Jets were initially encouraged by a first look, NFL Network reported Tuesday that Becton received a diagnosis ofh an avulsion fracture of his right knee camp. He likely will miss the entire 2022 season and the Green & White will once again have to shuffle pieces along the offensive line.
After Tuesday's spirited practice, Jets HC Robert Saleh lamented the latest setback for the talented third-year tackle.
"He's getting his second evaluation, second opinion tomorrow," Saleh said. "Still doesn't look good. Obviously, all the information is out there for everyone to read. It's probably the inevitable, but like I said earlier, I'm just sick for Mekhi."
After the Jets' mandatory minicamp in June, Becton set up shop in Florham Park. He worked with team doctors, trainers, and nutritionist Nicollete Mense to get his body right for the rigors of training camp and the regular season.
"I got to get closer to a few teammates who were here and closer to the staff, so it was very beneficial," said Becton, who became a father in the offseason and worked out on his own in Texas throughout the spring.
At the outset of camp, the Jets opted for clarity at the tackle spot over a lengthy battle. They named George Fant, fresh off a breakthrough campaign, the starter at LT and moved Becton, who impressed with his 13 game-stint at LT as a rookie, to RT. Becton didn't complain and received props from his linemates for his work ethic.
"When you have a force like him on the edge, it's hard to replace that, it's impossible to replace a guy like him on the edge," C Connor McGovern said recently. "To have him back in, his conditioning is really coming along, his knee's feeling a lot better. He's doing his pass sets and everything, he's getting back to where he was, so he'll be a force to be reckon with come week one. I truly believe it."
Second-year G Alijah Vera-Tucker, who also shifted to the right side after the team's signing of Pro Bowl LG Laken Tomlinson, said he believed the Becton was on a mission.
"He's out there every day, working his tail off," AVT said recently. "He tells the o-line every day, 'I'm working out here for you guys and myself as well.' We all see it and we all respect it as well. He always has that dog in him, and he's looking to prove something this year."
There were days when Becton was pushing through every rep in team drills with temperatures in the 90s coupled with high humidity. He was making the most of his conditioning and getting better.
"I just appreciate the fact that he is absolutely grinding through, making it uncomfortable for himself," Saleh said earlier in camp. "He's getting better every day. He's getting more confident every day. Really pleased with the direction he's going in."
Becton, GM Joe Douglas' first draft pick (No. 11 overall, 2020 NFL Draft), is a rare blocker who Saleh believes can fit in any system. In the Jets' zone scheme, the club loved the possibilities with Becton getting out in space.
"This is why we think he's transcendent," Saleh has said. "He's got feet like a small guy. He moves like a small guy. But he's a massive human being, he's a massive human being moving. He's made for any scheme you want him to be. We happen to be a zone scheme that asks guys to move laterally and get to the second level and play with speed and he can do that just about as easy as a 290-pound offensive lineman. He is special and it's really the only thing that could ever stand in the way of Mekhi is Mekhi. He's doing a really good job of moving forward and being his best version of himself every day."
Hours after Becton went down on Monday, the Jets made a pair of depth signings with the additions of Caleb Benenoch and Chris Glaser. They also hosted Duane Brown — a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro who has made 203 career regular-season starts at LT -- Saturday night at their annual scrimmage at MetLife Stadium
"Duane came in Saturday, he was at our Green & White scrimmage at the stadium," Douglas said during an appearance on WFAN's "Boomer and Gio." radio show. "Looks great, he's in phenomenal shape. Obviously, wheels are in motion. We'll see how things work out, but it was great having him in just being around the atmosphere."
On their first day without Becton, Chuma Edoga lined up at T across from Fant. Barring something unforeseen, the Jets will move on without Becton on the field in the 2022 NFL season. But Saleh said that Highway 77 will open once again, even after a disappointing detour.
"These are young men and I think sometimes with social media and this world we dehumanize these athletes in the worst way imaginable," Saleh said. "Mekhi has walked in this building and taken every single punch you can imagine from every which way, and he shows up and he works his tail off and he grinds every single day. He shows up to camp and he's fighting to get himself back in shape, he's got videos of him vomiting and people are throwing shade, and he's limping, and he's doing all those different things. He's fighting for his family, for himself, for his teammates, for this organization, for this fanbase, and he's doing everything. Then everybody wants to drop him like a wet rag. That isn't the case.
"We love Mekhi, we appreciate everything he's done, and his ride is not over. His story is not over, and he's got full support of this organization. If you're a fan that wants to support him, you're more than welcome but if not, just keep moving. Lot of respect for him and really excited for him to come back even stronger and give himself a chance to show why he was a first-round pick."