FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Big changes: It’s not easy for a 6-foot-7 offensive tackle to act invisible, but Mekhi Becton did a pretty good job of it the past few months, avoiding the media while rehabbing his knee injury at the Jets’ facility. He was there, but never seen by reporters.
When the season ended, Becton emerged from the shadows, presenting a slimmed-down version of himself and claiming he’s “very motivated” to be the player who dominated at times as a rookie in 2020.
“I’m losing a lot of weight,” he said. “As you can see, I look really skinny right now.”
Becton, who has weighed as much as 400, is down to 370, a source said. He dropped 15 pounds in the past two weeks, and he’s looking to lose another 15 or 20. Some perspective: His scouting-combine weight, which seemed ideal at the time, was 363.
The former first-round pick has made some significant changes in his life that point to brighter days. Instead of working out in Dallas, he will train in New Jersey during the offseason. His infant son moved to Jersey with him, so he’s a full-time dad — and loving it. He also changed agents, hiring Jared Fox and Alan Herman of the New York-based Sportstars agency.
Becton, still only 23, seems to be settling down, realizing the importance of the 2023 season. It’s the final year of his rookie contract and he figures to be a free agent in 2024 because there’s virtually no chance his fifth-year option is exercised. The Jets can’t make that kind of commitment to a player who has missed 33 of the past 34 games due to two knee surgeries, but they’re still hopeful he can turn it around. They’re expected to move him back to left tackle, his natural position.
“This is a big offseason for Mekhi, and I think he understands that,” general manager Joe Douglas said.
Becton knows he has to keep his weight down to reduce the stress on his twice-repaired right knee. There are skeptics, people telling him his knee won’t hold up in the NFL, but he still believes there’s good football left in his body.
“Y’all have seen me do it before,” he said, “so why can’t I do it again?”
2. Coordinator search: Owner Woody Johnson’s public declaration that he’s “absolutely” willing to pay big bucks for a veteran quarterback could’ve been a message to prospective offensive-coordinator candidates.
As of now, it’s not a terribly attractive vacancy, considering the unsettled quarterback situation and that it could be a one-and-done job if the Jets don’t make the playoffs in 2023, but Johnson and coach Robert Saleh both indicated they will be aggressive when it comes to solving the quarterback question.
That might help sell the position. They also will sell to candidates their young core of players and their top-5 defense. This is a massively important hire for Saleh, whose future could hinge on his coordinator-quarterback pairing. He has to play matchmaker, finding the right veteran quarterback, the right playcaller and the right scheme.
Saleh said he’s casting a wide net, which means he won’t limit the search to coaches who run the San Francisco 49ers/Kyle Shanahan system. The Jets ran that scheme for two years. Saleh said he’s not married to it, but added, “There’s a philosophical fit we’re looking for, as well as an understanding of what we’re trying to get done and how to utilize our players.” The decision impacts scouting too. A different scheme means the scouts have to focus on different positional traits.
No fewer than 10 names already have been linked to the job: Everyone from Darrell Bevell (Miami Dolphins quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator) to Kliff Kingsbury (former Arizona Cardinals coach). The ideal choice would be an experienced coordinator who has developed quarterbacks, but it sounds like Saleh is approaching the search with an open mind.
3. Did you know? The Jets scored only two first-quarter touchdowns. Since 2000, only three teams have scored fewer than two in the opening quarter, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The inability to start fast was one of the strikes against former offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
4. Hard to start this Carr in the cold: Derek Carr could be one of the names on the Jets’ quarterback wish list, but there’s something you should know about him: He’s not a very good cold-weather quarterback, and that’s kind of an important deal in New York.
When the game-time temperature is 40 degrees or lower, Carr has a 2-9 record, with 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 59% completion rate, per ESPN Stats & Info.
The Las Vegas Raiders are expected to try to trade him before Feb. 15. His contract guarantees him $40 million if he’s on their roster or not traded by then. He has a no-trade clause, so he could wind up being released and becoming a free agent.
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5. Bright outlook: Breece Hall, recovering from an ACL tear in his left knee, said he talked to a handful of current and former running backs to pick their brains on how to recover from major injuries. One of them was New York Giants star Saquon Barkley, who tore an ACL in 2020. It took Barkley two years before he looked like his old self.
“You see some guys may not come back the same, but some guys come back even better,” Hall said. “I’m going to attack it with the mentality that I’m going to come back even better.”
Hall said he’s ahead of schedule and expects to be ready for the start of the season.
6. Anti-Jets bias? One of the wildest stats of the season was the disparity in roughing the passer penalties. The Jets were flagged five times, yet they were the only team not to be the beneficiary of a roughing call. Which is to say, of all the times their quarterbacks were hit, not one of them was a foul. Seems curious.
7. Williams x 2: Seven starters are heading into unrestricted free agency, including quarterback Mike White, but only one is ending his rookie contract — linebacker Quincy Williams. The rest are older vets on their second and third deals. That’s one of the reasons why the Jets have prioritized him. His younger brother, Quinnen Williams, wants a contract extension. Interesting dynamic.
“We’re looking forward to playing on the same team together,” Quincy said. “That’s our mindset.”
8. Rookie numbers: The Jets finished ninth in rookie snaps (4,127) and tied for 11th in rookie starts (41), one year after finishing second and first in those respective categories. This illustrates how those numbers can be deceiving. The 2022 draft was far more impactful than the 2021 draft, which racked up bigger numbers because of playing time opportunities on a thin roster.
9. WR1: Garrett Wilson finished with 147 targets, fifth most in franchise history. (The NFL started tracking the stat in 1992.) He was terrific as a rookie, recording 1,103 receiving yards, but it will be important to add another playmaker in the offseason to provide balance. Wilson said his offseason goal is to get stronger, “to put more fat on my bones.”
10. The last word: “I feel like I’m the person they needed in terms of the swag that I’ve got, confidence, the way I carry myself. I feel like that’s what New York needed. For me to go out on the field and play pretty good, it’s just the cherry on top.” — rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner
This content was originally published here.