Mekhi Becton’s choice of T-shirt told the story.
Becton wore a blue T-shirt with orange lettering to his session with reporters with the words “Big Bust” in the middle surrounded by the words “fat, lazy, out of shape, injury prone, bum, sucks, overweight.”
Becton said the T-shirt is a reminder of what people have been saying about him. After a promising rookie season in 2020, Becton missed nearly the entire 2021 season and seems to have been written off by some people.
“I don’t understand why,” Becton said in his first interview since last September. “It’s all good, though. I’m going to make them eat their words.”
The Jets certainly hope so. The 2020 first-round pick is a key piece for the 2022 team. If Becton can recapture the form he showed as a rookie and manages to stay healthy, the offensive line will take a big step forward.
Becton is returning from the knee injury he suffered in Week 1 last year, an injury that cost him the season. Both he and head coach Robert Saleh said the knee is now fully recovered, and the expectation is Becton will be on the field when training camp opens at the end of July.
“We’re all aware of the talent he possesses, the size, the athleticism, the physicality, all of it and he’s really smart,” Saleh said. “[It helps] having him on the offensive line to move people off their spot so the running back has running lanes and the quarterback can sit in the pocket and buy a hitch. So yeah, he’s important. If he takes care of business like we know he can, he can be transcendent.”
The biggest question about Becton is how big he is.
It has been no secret that Becton has struggled to keep his weight down. He was found heavily as a rookie for letting his weight get too high, and there were whispers that he topped 400 pounds last year when he was injured.
Neither Becton nor Saleh would divulge what Becton’s weight is at the moment. Becton said he and the coaching staff are satisfied with where his weight is. Saleh was not as convincing.
“I’m not going to get into those details, but he’s fine,” Saleh said.
That was in stark contrast with how Saleh gushed about the condition of quarterback Zach Wilson and wide receiver Denzel Mims reported back in. You’d have to think if Becton came back in great shape, Saleh would be praising him up and down.
Saleh did concede that a man as big as Becton, who was 363 pounds when he was drafted, has a tougher time managing his weight than smaller players.
“A guy his size has to work a little harder than most,” Saleh said. “His weight will fluctuate incredibly over the course of like three days. It’s fascinating. He’s capable. He’s got the right mindset. He’s just got piece it all together.”
Becton spent the voluntary portion of the offseason in Texas, awaiting the birth of his first child, then spending time with his son after he was born. During the mandatory minicamp this week, Becton has not participated in practice, but has worked on the side with the training staff.
Last season, big things were expected from Becton, but his Week 1 knee injury ended those. The initial prognosis was that Becton would return in 4-8 weeks, but he was unable to get enough strength back in his knee to come back.
“It was really just like a lot of adversity,” Becton said of last season. “Just trying to become better from what you did the rookie year and then to be out all season, it’s a lot to handle. I’m definitely coming back with that chip on my shoulder.”
Saleh said this winter that Becton would have to compete for the starting left tackle spot with George Fant, who played well in place of Becton last season. Becton said he is open to playing anywhere on the field, but clearly wants to return to left tackle.
“It’s football,” Becton said. “We’re always going to compete, no matter what. I’m just going to have to go out there and get my job back.”
Becton did not make any Pro Bowl predictions on Wednesday, but he made his goal clear.
“I’m coming back to try to be the best I can be. It’s as simple as that,” Becton said. “I ain’t going to sit here and say I’m going to get this accolade or this accolade. I’m going to come out there and be the best I can.”