The moment that the New York Jets decided to decline OT Mekhi Becton’s fifth-year option, it confirmed what most fans already knew — general manager Joe Douglas’ first draft pick with the franchise was a bust.
Having said that, it might not be too late for Becton to rewrite his Jets story in 2023. Pro Football Focus writers Dalton Wasserman and Jim Wyman labeled the former first-round selection Gang Green’s 2023 “X-Factor” during a recent NFL roster preview on May 11.
“General manager Joe Douglas’ first draft pick may be the most important player on the team this year,” the PFF analysts voiced, explaining: “He has all the size and talent you could ask for in a left tackle and showed flashes of it during his rookie year in 2020 (74.4 overall grade). He just hasn’t been able to stay healthy over the past two years. Becton has one more chance to prove he’s a franchise tackle. If he does, he will greatly raise the ceiling of the Jets’ offense [under Aaron Rodgers].”
Of course, Becton is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the NYJ offensive line.
Jets Offensive Line Called ‘Biggest Weakness’ in 2023 Once Again
Just about every year, it feels like the Jets’ greatest area of weakness is the offensive line. Heading into the 2023 campaign, Wasserman and Wyman believe that to be the case once again.
“The Jets were an injury-riddled mess up front last year, especially after Alijah Vera-Tucker was lost for the season in Week 7,” they reasoned after calling the OL their “biggest weakness” during the same article. “They were denied a first-round tackle in the draft and are now left with a group consisting of the oft-injured Mekhi Becton, 40-year-old Duane Brown, 2022 fourth-rounder Max Mitchell and, possibly, Vera-Tucker. They also need a bounce-back season from left guard Laken Tomlinson, who earned just a 56.8 overall grade last season.”
It’s definitely the area of concern for the Jets right now, and fans and analysts haven’t been shy about voicing their displeasure when it comes to the blocking unit both this offseason and in previous years. There is one new bright spot to be optimistic about, however, second-round rookie center Joe Tippmann.
The PFF writers named Tippmann their “rookie to watch” for the Jets this season, stating: “Tippmann has a good chance to start as a rookie, providing the Jets great flexibility with guys like Connor McGovern, Wes Schweitzer and Vera-Tucker when filling out the rest of their line. Tippmann is an athletic freak with Pro Bowl potential. His development would be a boon to the rest of the unit.”
Alongside a healthy Vera-Tucker, Tippmann should help stabilize the interior of the offensive line for years to come. If all goes well with the pair of prospects, the Jets just need to shore up their tackles long-term.
Aaron Rodgers Is the Ultimate ‘X-Factor’ for the Jets
Wasserman and Wyman chose to ignore the obvious answer when selecting an NYJ “X-factor” for the 2023 season, but make no mistake, Rodgers is practically the definition of the term.
For example, let’s say Becton gets injured again, the Jets could probably survive with a tackle pairing of Brown and Mitchell or Brown and newcomer Billy Turner. It wouldn’t be ideal, don’t get me wrong, but they could get by as they’ve done in years past.
Rodgers is the ultimate X-factor, however. Just by taking the field — with his wealth of experience, knowledge and football IQ — the future Hall of Famer makes this New York offense a lot better. That’s before you talk about his actual talent as a passer.
Zach Wilson was more mobile than Rodgers, that’s about it, and the BYU product often sacrificed that strength because of a lack of pocket awareness.
Rest assured, the offense should look noticeably different with Rodgers and new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett pulling the strings, and that makes the veteran quarterback a much greater X-factor than Becton in 2023.