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Which Young Jet Is Poised for a Breakout Season?

Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker Return from Injury; Jermaine Johnson, Garrett Wilson Looking for Second-Year Jumps


Throughout the offseason, reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange and Caroline Hendershot will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.

Today's question: Which young Jet is poised for a breakout season?

EA: Mekhi Becton. Becton turned 24 in April and is entering his fourth professional season. A first-round pick out of Louisville in 2020, Becton had an impressive rookie season, but knee injuries derailed his past two years. Jets HC Robert Saleh said Becton did an "unbelievable job" of getting his weight down this offseason and that he probably is in the best shape of his life. Becton is determined to overcome adversity and write a new chapter. On a roster stocked with elite players, he remains an elite talent and could be X-factor for a team seeking to reach another level. Becton is a slimmed-down monster who has the ability to lock up edge rushes and also get out in space and pound defenders on the second level. The Jets will play their best five up front and a healthy Becton would be one of their top five. After once envisioning an Alijah Vera-Tucker/Becton pairing on the left side, it's possible we could see that on the right side in 2023.

EG: I'm going with RG Alijah Vera-Tucker. When AVT tore his triceps tendon in Week 7 last season, I think he was on the brink of national recognition, something I believe he'll receive in 2023. After playing left guard as a rookie in 2021, Vera-Tucker switched to right guard in his first offseason before starting at three different positions in three weeks (RG, LT and RT in Weeks 3-5). Then the Green & White averaged 156.3 rushing yards per game between Weeks 5-7, which ranked No. 7 in the NFL. The Jets averaged 99.2 yards on the ground for the season. With Aaron Rodgers in the fold and more eyes on the Jets, I think AVT, the No. 14 overall pick in 2021, will be recognized as one of the best interior players in the NFL and will receive Pro Bowl and potentially All-Pro consideration.

See the top images of the Jets during the 2023 offseason program.

RL: Since Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson and even Breece Hall for six-plus games have already broken out, I'll turn to the defensive portion of the top of the Jets' 2021 draft and say either Jermaine Johnson or Micheal Clemons is positioned to bust out. Edge rusher Johnson, the 26th overall pick, and fourth-rounder Clemons, more of a combo DT/DE player, have similar numbers. They're comparable in size (Johnson's 6-5, 254 to Clemons' 6-5, 263). Last year's stats were also remarkably close in sacks (2.5-2.5), QB hits (5-6), tackles (29-36) and defensive snaps (312-311). Both were limited last year but showed flashes, and with this year's packed pass-rush/DL rotation and the overall expectations on the defense and the team, the pressure will be on to nail down larger roles. I see one or the other increasing his profile and his impact in Year 2. Or maybe both.

CH: Garrett Wilson. While I know he technically "broke out" last season during his rookie year, I think he is going to reach an entirely different level this season. Last year, Wilson was able to break Keyshawn Johnson's Jets rookie receiving yardage record with 1,103 yards on 83 receptions and four TDs. Wilson led all NFL rookies in receptions and receiving yards and was able to do all of this with a rotation of four different QBs -- Joe Flacco, Chris Streveler, Mike White and Zach Wilson. Garrett Wilson became the first player in franchise history to win the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and the first to receive a vote for the award since 1996. So, while it seems like a hard task to beat his previous season, I think Wilson could be one if not the best receiver in the NFL this season. He will have Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball and with Wilson's athleticism, I think the sky is the limit for him in 2023.

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