The Jets initially projected optimism after right tackle Mekhi Becton limped off the practice field Monday afternoon with a knee injury. By Monday night, it turned out that the optimism was completely misplaced.
Becton suffered a patella and patella injury, unrelated to the knee injury that kept him out for most of last season, according to SNY’s Connor Hughes. Although Becton will undergo further tests on Tuesday, he is expected to miss significant time and could be out for the entire season.
For Becton, a player who was destined to use this season as a springboard after playing just one game in 2021, the injury is a brutal blow that could have ramifications for his footballing future. For the Jets, it’s a punch to the stomach, and an immediate test for the depth of their offensive line, as tackle Conor McDermott also deals with an ankle problem that is expected to keep him out 1-2 weeks.
The Jets took the first step in addressing that depth later Monday by signing Caleb Benenoch, a 28-year-old who has played five seasons with Tampa Bay and New Orleans, with the ability to play both guard and tackle positions. law. Benenoch’s signing was first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Duane Brown, who visited the weekend, would seem to be an option as well. Brown, a former All-Pro, will soon turn 37 and is coming off a rough season with the Seahawks, but he would bring a veteran presence to the room. The signing of Benenoch, who has played just two NFL games since 2018, doesn’t seem to stop Brown from coming, particularly given the severity of Becton’s injury.
Despite the immediate problems facing the Jets, the long-term concerns for Becton could be greater. He has the pedigree of being a former first-round pick, but coming back after playing just one game in possibly two seasons won’t be easy, especially for a player who has struggled with conditioning in the past. Last year, it was the reason he didn’t return from an injury that wasn’t initially described as the end of the season. On Monday, Becton worked through the early part of practice on a hot and humid day at Florham Park before injuring himself.
“If you have to take time off, obviously you’re always worried about everybody,” coach Robert Saleh said. I have the same concern [cornerback] DJ Reed, I have the same concern for anyone, for [running back] Ty Johnson, who’s been having a really good camp.
“You just don’t want to get into a conditioning deficit. And he’s a big man and he’s been working hard and he’s been doing everything that he’s been asked to do. So hopefully, like I said, everything will turn out the way we think he will and he can continue on this track and continue to build the way he has.”
Becton wore a brace in practice late last week and his play count was limited in the Jets’ Green and White Scrimmage over the weekend, which Saleh said had no connection to Monday’s injury. The plan was to limit Becton’s snaps on the grass at MetLife Stadium because it was the first time the team had played on the artificial surface and therefore warranted caution.
Chuma Edoga replaced Becton in practice and is the next man on the depth chart. A third-round pick in 2019, Edoga appeared in five games last season but hasn’t started one since 2020. The defensive line largely won Monday, sending Zach Wilson into regular scrambles.
“Obviously Chuma has all the skill in the world, he’s just trying to find his consistency,” Saleh said. “Being consistent in the way he approaches the game, in the way he executes from play to play. So it’s hard for him. There are no excuses for anyone, but he goes from left to right because he has to balance. That’s tough, especially in camp, but I know he’s working hard.”
However, the Jets coach pushed back on the idea that the Jets need to improve their depth at the tackle.
“I think we really like our backup situation,” Saleh said. “I know [when] McDermott is back, he’ll be fine, he’s started games for us. Chuma has started games for us. Getting a guy like Duane Brown is like screwing up the point of having so much talent at one position. We have faith in our backup offensive linemen.”
That, however, was hours before the forecast turned for the worse: Saleh ended his media availability by describing himself as an “optimistic Oliver.”
Being the Jets, however, the optimism never seems to last. And this time, it could have evaporated in record time.