Former Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody has one message for New York's second-year left tackle Mekhi Becton.
“He needs to get in the best shape of his life," Woody told Brian Costello and Jake Brown on the New York Post's 'Gang's All Here' podcast this week.
Becton has been sidelined since Week 1 when he suffered a knee injury on just the 48th offensive snap of the entire season. Since then, Becton's estimated time of return has been altered with each passing week. Finally, just a few days ago, Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters that Becton's injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, "barring a miracle."
Woody, who spent the final three seasons of his 12-year career with the Jets, believes that Becton would benefit from slimming down this offseason. He said there's a chance Becton can develop into the best left tackle in the NFL, but he needs to put the work in to get that point. His natural ability will only get him so far.
“Nobody will dispute the immense talent he has,” Woody said. “We saw flashes of that his rookie year. A lot of his plays made highlights. But, like we’ve said constantly time and time again, your best ability is your availability."
He has a point. Becton might be one of the best young tackles in the game, and he showed that at times during his rookie year in 2020, but if he can't stay on the field, he's useless to New York, a team that is striving to protect a young quarterback in a rebuilding offense.
Becton, 22, is listed at 363 pounds on the Jets' website. New York knew the risks when they selected him 11th overall in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. General manager Joe Douglas certainly can't be thrilled about Becton playing in only 14 games over his first two NFL seasons, though.
“He needs to hit this offseason, like right now, his focus should be, ‘I need to get in the best shape of my life.’ You hear the whispers already. He’s injury prone," Woody said. "He missed time during his rookie year. He’s basically missed all of his second year. He needs to make sure he comes back in the offseason in OTAs, minicamp, training camp, hitting the ground ready to roll and put forth his best season in this league.”
If that seems like a harsh take on Becton's situation, remember that Woody has been in the youngster's shoes before. The two-time Super Bowl champion recalled a conversation he had with Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells during his career, when he was told he needed to lose some weight as well.
"That was like the first thing he told me,” Woody explained. “‘You’re a fantastic player, but imagine how much better you’d be if you dropped 10-15 points’. And he was right! I lost 15 pounds, and came back the next year and probably had my best season. I was light on my feet. I was in tremendous shape.”
The next few months will be very telling as to what the Jets think about Becton. New York could potentially draft another tackle, using one of their two first-rounders, or elect to re-sign Morgan Moses in free agency. Veteran George Fant has been magnificent in Becton's place as well—he has one more year under contract before entering free agency in 2023.
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