New York Jets LT Mekhi Becton leaves practice after being evaluated for possible concussion

ByRich Cimini via ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
ESPN

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In each of their last three days on a football field, the New York Jets saw an injured starter leave early for the locker room.

The latest was left tackle Mekhi Becton, who was evaluated for a possible concussion during a joint practice Tuesday with the Philadelphia Eagles. There was no update from the team on Becton's status.

Becton, listed at 6-foot-7, 363 pounds, suffered a head-to-head collision on the fourth play of the first 11-on-11 period. He appeared woozy, immediately went to the sideline and vomited. Minutes later, he walked slowly to the locker room with a trainer.

This has become a daily routine for the Jets, who suffered two costly injuries last week at the Green Bay Packers. Defensive end Carl Lawson suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon rupture in a joint practice and, after a day off, linebacker Jarrad Davis injured his left ankle in the game and will be sidelined for two months.

The Jets also lost defensive end Vinny Curry for the entire season -- and he never stepped on the field for them.

Curry, who signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract in free agency, never practiced with the Jets because of an undisclosed medical procedure in the offseason.

At the start of camp, Curry was placed on the active/non-football injury list. Saleh said Curry was expected to return around Week 2. On Tuesday, he was moved to reserve/NFI, making him ineligible for 2021.

The Jets had hoped Curry, 33, with 32.5 career sacks, would be a situational pass rusher. Coupled with Lawson's injury, this leaves them extremely thin at defensive end.

After a promising rookie year, Becton, drafted 11th overall in 2020, is having a hard-luck 2021. He missed the offseason practices with a plantar fasciitis foot injury and got off to a slow start in training camp, as he struggled in pass protection -- mainly against Lawson.

Becton was called out last week by offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who said, "Mekhi is going through some things right now. He's not playing at his best and he knows that."

That re-fueled speculation that Becton is out of shape, but coach Robert Saleh said Tuesday that is not the case.

"His weight is good, his conditioning is fine," Saleh said. "He's fine."

Becton hasn't disclosed his weight. Neither have the Jets.

With a new coaching staff, the Jets are transitioning to an outside-zone rushing attack, which requires the offensive linemen to be nimble. They're often required to move horizontally and make blocks on the second level.

"It is a completely different scheme that he's in, not only the run game, but from a protection standpoint," Saleh said. "Where he's used to just getting in front of people and mauling them, we're asking him to run off the ball and do things a little bit differently than he's used to.

"This outside-zone scheme, it's not just inside zone and maul the guy in front of you because you're just a big human. We're trying to extract the athleticism that he has, which he does. And there's an adjustment that he's got to go through."

Becton made a splash as a rookie because of his ability to pancake and toss defenders, which made him a social-media sensation. He had some uneven moments, too, as he finished 49th out of 63 tackles in pass-block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

He downplayed his pass-protection struggles in camp, crediting Lawson with being an outstanding pass rusher. Becton said those battles made him a better player, saying, "Iron sharpens iron."

As for the new scheme, Becton said he's a fan.

"This is fun," he said last week. "We did a lot of drop-back passes last year and not enough running and setting up the play-action. It's really fun for me."

In other injury news, the Jets welcomed back two highly drafted rookies, first-round guard Alijah Vera-Tucker (pectoral muscle) and second-round wide receiver Elijah Moore (quadriceps). Vera-Tucker was injured the first week of camp, Moore on Aug. 12.

"It's kind of like Christmas," Saleh said. "We had a few guys back."