Every year, there's a buzz around the first padded practice of training camp. It signifies football is around the corner. Even though that day is typically in late July, that excitement was still present on Monday at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
Offensive and defensive linemen are typically the ones whose smiles are a little wider when the pads come on. That means that Jets rookie T Mekhi Becton was probably sporting an ear-to-ear smile as the 6'7", 363-pounder's clamps grasped some unsuspecting defenders.
"He made himself known out there and what he's capable of doing," LB Blake Cashman said. "It's all good competition. He's a great player. He's going to be somebody that's going to play a long time in this league and has more potential to grow. The first thing that stands out is just his size. Today in practice, I had to come down and take him on one-on-one. Let's just say that didn't go well for me. It's fun to watch him, fun to compete against him and I think he's going to help our offense out big-time this year."
Linebacker Neville Hewitt also found himself one-on-one with "The Great Wall of Green." In team periods, Becton swiftly got to the second level where he met Hewitt. The rookie drove Hewitt to the ground, got up and jogged back to the sideline without saying a word.
"He caught me," Hewitt said. "I tried to get into the gap and he came off the ball pretty good. I was pretty impressed. He's a pretty big fella. … If you see him coming, you better go at him because if you don't, he's going to get you. You better go at him."
Running back Frank Gore, 37, was a little more fortunate than Hewitt and Cashman as Becton paved the way. Gore, who's entering his 16th season, hasn't seen a lot, if any, players like the Jets' No. 11 overall pick.
"He's just different man," he said. "He's one of the biggest guys out there. I have to see more, this was the first day in pads. Every day I just have to watch him and watch film of not just him but everybody. Then I can tell. The first day, he was talking to me out there and saying, 'I'm going to get you four yards' and I like that.
"He can move. I watched him when he got drafted, just watching him play basketball and watching him slam guys into the ground. Even out here, moving pretty well. To be that big, that's crazy."
Becton's rare combination of size and athleticism caught the media's eye when he ran a 5.1-second 40-yard dash at the N.F.L. Combine in February. Now, Coach Adam Gase said that the players are starting to realize how unique Becton is.
"When other players are talking about his size, his length, his strength, that's when you know it's real," Gase said. "You know it's not something that a coach or scout is just talking about just because of his height, weight, speed and measurable-type things. He applies it to the field. It's difficult for guys to figure out how to rush him in the pass game and then in the run game it's hard to hard to move them back, you don't see much penetration, that line flattens out pretty fast."