Over the past two years, Jets’ and Giants’ fans have cringed at the thought. The position will be one of major parallels between the two teams this season. For the first time in their histories since 1970, both teams drafted an offensive tackle as their top choices.
And the Jets’ Mekhi Becton and the Giants’ Andrew Thomas are massive bookends who will be under the spotlight or protect their respective franchise quarterbacks.
Louisville product Becton is 6-foot-7 and 370-pounds and Georgia grad Thomas is slight smaller at 6-5, 315 pounds. Still size will matter here.
The Jets last drafted a tackle this high in 2006 when they chose D’Brickashaw Ferguson and earlier when they plunked Marvin Powell in 1977 and Chris Ward in 1978. All three were mainstays up front.
Even though Thomas was the highest Giants’ lineman drafted (third overall) since guard John Hicks in 1974, the fabled Ereck Flowers was the last tackle picked in 2015. Before that, Gordon King held that honor in 1978 and Luke Pettigout in 1999. Both were serviceable in their times.
Yet, Becton and Thomas will be integral players in both of their teams plans to reach the next level. Ironically, both also are parts of offensive line overhauls in the process.
To their credit, Becton and Thomas have felt more like seasons veterans than apprehensive rookies.
“It’s been great,” said Becton after his first week of camp experience to NYJets.com. “I’ve been picking up the playbook faster since we’re on the field now. And I’ve been able to hit people. I haven’t been able to hit a person in a while, so it’s been great.
“Trying to get my technique down pat, learning different techniques, different things to do. That’s the hardest thing, trying to learn my technique,” he said. “My technique has got to be good. I’m in the league now, not in college no more. So I know my technique has to be perfect in order for me to win.”
Jets’ offensive line coach Frank Pollack literally believes Becton will be a force.
“Mass times acceleration equals force,” said Pollack, employing some physics logic. “You need a guy that can play with speed and [knee]bend, and at what point does he start to lose his ability to bend and to move with speed and he’s not creating force. … Is 370 too high? Yeah. Is there a magic number? We’re working on that. He’s a young guy, his body is going to mature and change over time.
Like his counterpart, Thomas has taken his journey in stride.
“For me, the biggest thing right now, especially in pass pro, is my hands,” Thomas told NYGiants.com. “In college, I had a bad habit of having my hands outside my frame. I’m working on keeping my hands inside and getting a good strike. In the run, game just keep a good base. Sometimes I get a little too excited trying to get to the block. Just make sure I keep a good base each time.”
Giants’ offensive line coach Marc Colombo , who gained hi fame for his work with Dallas, likes what he sees.
“Andrew is a tremendous football player,” Colombo said. “At this level, it’s about fine-tuning some of those details. One of the first things we talked about was use of hands, hand strike. Andrew’s aware of where he needs to get better. That was one thing he needed to get better with, so that’s something we’ve been working on quite a bit. Then just the type of pass rusher you’re going to see week in and week out. It’s going to be a premier pass rusher, being able to study that rusher, know how to study him, know what his moves are, know everything that he’s thinking. Those are some of the things that we’ve been working on and some of the things we’ve been talking about.”
Thomas has benefitted from his friendship with fellow Georgia alum linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who was a senior when Thomas was a freshman. Even then, Carter saw his potential that matched his frame.
“I knew from day one when he stepped on campus at Athens that he was going to be a top first round pick,” said Carter. “It’s nothing new. It’s the same thing he did as a freshman in college. He’s learned, grown and matured. As a rookie, he came in that far advanced, too. I know I have to bring it to Andrew because like I said, he’s ready. I have to make sure he’s ready for game one.”
Based on early returns, Becton and Thomas are ready for The Big Show. Without preseason games this summer, you may not get a true reading.
Still, there is plenty of optimism about a position that recently has haunted both teams. The two gargantuan rookies bring a fresh outlook and they surely have a heavy task ahead.
Now, Becton and Thomas just have to prove it.