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Jets camp: Mekhi Becton leaves practice; Zach Wilson has another successful day

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mekhi Becton fell to the ground, grabbed his knee and rolled around a few times, clearly in pain. As he limped off the field, all the eyes on the sideline — fans and reporters — diverted to No. 77. He ripped off his shoulder pads, and slowly made his way inside the Jets’ building, trainers on each side of him.

It was only the second play of 11-on-11 team drills on Monday, the 10th practice of training camp, just as Becton finally seemed to be working his way into playing shape. Now everyone awaits the severity of an injury to one of the Jets’ most important players.

Something looked off with Becton when the day began. During individual drills for the offensive linemen, Becton started limping after engaging with a teammate.

In team drills, his right toe got caught in the turf as defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers engaged with him, and his body went backward. He grabbed his right knee — the surgically repaired one, injured in Week 1 last year — and favored that knee as he walked off the field.

Later, Jets coach Robert Saleh could be seen chatting with general manager Joe Douglas. They were too far away for anyone to hear their conversation, but after practice, Saleh was optimistic.

“In my heart, I think he’ll be just fine,” Saleh said of Becton.

It would be difficult not to be concerned about Becton, though, especially after the way things played out in 2021. He hurt his knee in Week 1 against the Panthers, and it became a season-ending injury. Becton also had difficulty staying in shape as he rehabbed the injury.

Now, this.

“The only thing I got (from trainers) is that (the knee) is stable and it seems fine,” Saleh said. “We’re going to get it checked for precautionary reasons. But as of now, it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal. But, knock on wood, hopefully that stays the case.”

Becton started wearing a knee brace during practice on Friday — Saleh said that was for comfort — and then he practiced on a pitch count during Saturday’s scrimmage, sitting out the final two drives. But Saleh said that was pre-planned rest to see how his knee would hold up playing at MetLife Stadium.

“Everything checked out great,” Saleh said.

But then, Monday happened.

Saleh insists this won’t be like last year, when a couple weeks of recovery turned into a couple more weeks, which then turned into Becton never coming back at all.

“I think it’s different because the initial reports we knew what it was, we knew there were no tears where it was going to need surgery,” Saleh said. “You guys know I’m optimistic but I think he’s going to be fine.”

The Jets open the preseason on Friday night against the Eagles in Philadelphia. Here are other observations from Monday’s practice, which included an impressive pass rush — and another solid day for Zach Wilson.

Injury report — and what it means for Duane Brown

There’s another layer to Becton’s injury that should have the Jets concerned at offensive tackle. Conor McDermott hurt his ankle in Saturday’s scrimmage and Saleh said he’ll be out “a week or two.” McDermott had been struggling in camp, but he was acting as the Jets’ top backup tackle.

That leaves just Chuma Edoga and fourth-round rookie Max Mitchell as options to fill in for Becton — and to back up left tackle George Fant, who is still limited by his own knee injury.

Edoga struggled on Monday, promptly allowing a Jacob Martin sack when he plugged in for Becton at right tackle, and another Martin sack a few plays later.

“Chuma has got all the ability in the world, he’s just trying to find his consistency,” Saleh said. “Being consistent in the way he approaches the game, the way he executes from play to play, and so it’s hard on him. There’s no excuses for anyone but he is going from left (tackle) to right every play because he does have to swing, and that is difficult, especially in camp. But I know he’s working his tail off.”

The Jets already desperately needed help behind Becton and Fant, but this latest issue only exacerbates that need — and might make Duane Brown’s price go up, too.

The Jets hosted Brown for a free-agent visit during Saturday’s scrimmage and already seemed to be heading toward signing him. Douglas might be extra motivated now.

Brown will be 37 on Aug. 30, but he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Seahawks.

“Getting a guy like Duane Brown is being explored,” Saleh said. “But we do have faith in our backup offensive linemen. Anytime you get hurt and you have to test your depth it becomes scary waters, but that’s why we put in all this work … it doesn’t create panic at all, in my mind, anyway.

“But a guy like Duane is a bonus.”

The Jets should be panicking. If they go into the season with Edoga or McDermott starting at either tackle spot, Zach Wilson will be spending a lot of time on the ground.

Others injured and not practicing: cornerback D.J. Reed, running back Ty Johnson and defensive end Vinny Curry, all out with hamstring injuries. It’s unclear when any of them will return.

Zach Wilson’s day

Wilson on Monday had his second straight successful practice, following his performance in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Once Becton left, it seemed like Wilson was being pressured on just about every play. But in the face of that pressure — and even when he was sacked, since plays aren’t being called dead — Wilson made some impressive throws and never seemed flustered. His best throw was to tight end Tyler Conklin, his new favorite target. Wilson lasered into a tightly covered Conklin, who hauled it in as he fell to the ground, being tackled.

Wilson connected with Elijah Moore on his first three pass attempts, and led the offense down the field on a long drive during the move-the-ball unscripted portion of practice. The longest play of the drive was on a 15-yard completion to Conklin. The drive ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis on a slant across the middle.

All told, I had Wilson completing 9 of 11 passes with one touchdown and no interceptions — and no passes that were even close to getting picked off, either.

“He’s getting more comfortable, getting more confidence out there,” Davis said. “Getting the ball out early, getting it to the guys he’s supposed to get it to. He’s taking charge of the huddle, and he’s taking some real good steps.”

Premium pass rush

Wilson had a good day, but in a game situation he would have been hit, sacked or pressured enough to affect his completions. I counted at least four plays that would’ve definitely been sacks, and a few others that might’ve been if the defensive player didn’t pull up in his pursuit.

Those four sacks: Martin (twice), Franklin-Myers and rookie Jermaine Johnson, who spent a lot of time in the backfield on Monday.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley also pressured Wilson on a play that was called defensive pass interference on an attempt for Braxton Berrios down the field. Linebacker Quincy Williams and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams also came close to sacks.

Defensive end Jabari Zuniga had two sacks with the backups, getting to both Joe Flacco and Mike White.

Getting feisty

Late in practice, there was nearly a scuffle between defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and an offensive lineman (I couldn’t see who). It was broken up quickly.

Things haven’t escalated quite like they have in East Rutherford.

“It’s hot, but it’s Day 10, also going against the same opponent, getting competitive out there,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, it’s all love. … We definitely get after it.”

Quote of the day

Rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner was peppered with questions about his trash-talking tendencies, both in practice and in games. At one point, a reporter asked: “What would you say if you were trash talking me?”

Gardner’s response: “I wouldn’t talk trash to you because I would expect to dominate you.”

Quote of the day, Option 2

Saleh, on imposing rookie defensive lineman Micheal Clemons: “He’s doing a great job, he’s proving he can play inside and out, we’re asking him to do both. He’s like Deebo, from (the movie) ‘Friday.’ He doesn’t flinch.”

Quote of the day, Option 3

Linebacker Jamien Sherwood, on what Kwon Alexander has brought to the linebacker room: “A lot of energy. I never met a guy like him. Early in the mornings, a lot of people don’t want to hear noise. But he comes in the room, he’s ready, he’s talking. … He’d say, ‘We’ve got some energy vampires in here. I’m going to make sure we’re all waking up.’”

That “energy vampire” line is a reference to the hilarious FX sitcom “What We Do in the Shadows.”

Colin Robinson would be proud.

Miscellaneous tidbits

• The most important update of the day: 25 seeing-eye dogs were at Monday’s practice.

• Saleh said the plan is for the Jets’ starters to play a series or two against the Eagles on Friday, which should amount to one quarter.
• Running back Breece Hall is still running with the most juice. He picked up a 10-yard gain during that final scoring drive after cutting the middle of the field and evading a few defenders.
Eddy Pineiro had the edge on Greg Zuerlein in the kicker battle on Monday. Both attempted four field goals. Pineiro made all four, Zuerlein missed two. Pineiro made it from 54 yards — and Zuerlein missed. The winner of that battle will likely be determined in preseason games.
• Wide receiver Tarik Black fumbled after catching a pass from White during team drills.
• Flacco connected with running back La’Mical Perine on a swing pass during team drills. Perine has had a couple of good practices in a row, and he’s doing it at the right time with Ty Johnson still out.
• Wide receiver Denzel Mims said last week that he views himself as a starter, and Saleh indicated that the 2020 second-round pick — who has fallen far down the depth chart — expressed frustration with his current role. “He expressed it and he should express it. If he didn’t think he was a starter, I think it’d be a severe problem,” Saleh said. “I’m going to say it again: I love the way he’s approached camp. He is grinding every day. … He is getting better. He does express frustration but at the same time it’s not (impacting) his day-to-day approach.”

(Photo of Mekhi Becton: Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

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