The Jets' most anticipated training camp battle is over. Instead of having Mekhi Becton and George Fant compete at LT and shuffle across the line each practice, head coach Robert Saleh ended any suspense on Wednesday, moments after his team's first training camp workout.
"He's going to be our right tackle," Saleh said of Becton, "and we're going to have George over there at left."
Fant, who was activated off the PUP list before Wednesday's workout, had a career year in the 2021 season after Becton went down with a knee injury at Carolina in Week 1. Starting a career-high 15 games, Fant, according to Pro Football Focus, had a pass-blocking efficiency number of 98.3 and the third-lowest pressure rate (3.03%) among left tackles. Becton, who impressed as a rookie, played both tackle spots in college at Louisville.
"He was good," Saleh said of Becton's reaction to the news. "George is good. They're fine — we just sat down and we just talked about it. We don't want those guys jumping back and forth. We made a decision that was best for the team.
"George had a fantastic year last year at left tackle; Mekhi is a gifted young man who can do both. It doesn't mean that Mekhi's left tackle days are over, but right now he's young enough – just like AVT [Alijah Vera-Tucker] – to make that transition. We really like those two next to each other, so we've got a really cool group."
See the Green & White on the field for the first time at 2022 Training Camp.
In April, Fant told reporters that he feels like he's a natural left tackle and he planned to do everything in his power to stay there. After signing as a free agent in 2020, Fant was the Jets' RT in 2020 before he took 90% of the offensive snaps last season and found a home at LT. The former hoopster at Western Kentucky played both tackle spots and lined up as a third tight end in Seattle.
"He feels much more comfortable on the left side and performed much better on the left side," Saleh said of Fant. "He's got the athleticism to play the left side as does Becton. It was just a matter of what was a better combination in terms of offensive line and just grouping the guys together. The veterans, Laken Tomlinson, being at left guard, working with George, and then AVT at RG working with Mekhi. Just kind of piecing all that together, felt like this was the best combination and place for all of them."
In his first two drafts as Jets general manger, Joe Douglas selected Becton (No. 11, in 2020) and USC product Vera-Tucker (No. 14, in 2020) in consecutive first rounds. After AVT joined the Jets, many wondered if Becton and Vera-Tucker would man the left side of the line for the next decade. But they'll both line up on the right after Vera-Tucker moved to RG after the Jets signed Tomlinson, a Pro Bowler, in free agency.
"Personally, I'm excited about that right side," Saleh said. "You have a couple of potential all-pros in my opinion, they're two fantastic young players and then you have two veterans on the other side. It's a cool combination and a cool group."
Becton got himself into football shape after mandatory minicamp, staying in Florham Park minus the July 4th week to work with team doctors, trainers, and the strength & conditioning staff.
"We all recognize that he's pretty damn good and him being along the offensive line along with the three interior guys we have and George, it's pretty damn good offensive line," Saleh said. "A healthy Mekhi is special."