Jets switch former first-rounder Mekhi Becton to right tackle

Coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday that Becton would be moving to right tackle this season. (Adam Hunger/AP)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mekhi Becton and his pancake blocks are being flipped to the right side of the New York Jets’ offensive line.

Coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday after the team’s first training camp practice that Becton will be the starting right tackle this season. The 2020 first-round draft pick entered his first two NFL seasons as the starter on the left side.

George Fant, who took over at left tackle when Becton was hurt in the season opener last year, will remain at that spot.

“It don’t really matter to me,” a noticeably slimmed-down Becton said. “I’ve just got to change my technique up. As long as I’m on the field, it don’t really matter to me. I just know I’ve got to do it different. Different things on the right side than I’ve got to do on the left, so it’s a work in progress.”

Becton injured his right knee in Week 1 at Carolina last year and missed the rest of the season. Fant played very well in his place.

“We made a decision that was best for the team,” Saleh said. “George had a fantastic year last year at left tackle. Mekhi, he’s a gifted young man who can do both. That doesn’t mean that Mekhi’s left tackle days are over. But right now, he’s young enough … to make that transition.”

Becton was taken with the No. 11 pick out of Louisville two years ago and was viewed as a long-term building block on the Jets’ offensive line at left tackle as the guy protecting the quarterback’s blind side. He had a solid rookie season, but struggled with a foot injury last offseason and then was trying to get comfortable in a new offensive system before the knee injury.

“I’m just playing,” Becton said. “I’m just blessed to be on the field again, honestly.”

His weight issues have also been a troubling topic of conversation. The 6-foot-7 Becton is listed at 363 pounds, but he ballooned to around 400 last year, according to an ESPN report. He remained in Texas working out with trainers while missing the voluntary practices this offseason to remain with his girlfriend, who had the couple’s first child.

When Becton attended mandatory minicamp last month, he said he would make critics and doubters “eat their words.” Compared to how he looked then, Becton has clearly dropped several pounds.

“I’m not going to get too much into the weight, but he got himself into football shape,” Saleh said. “Really, he’s a gifted athlete, he’s a gifted man. And I’m just really excited about the direction he’s going.”

There had been some talk during the offseason that Becton and Fant would compete at left tackle through training camp, with the loser sliding over to the right side.

But Saleh and his staff decided against having them going back and forth, instead settling now on the spots. Saleh said Fant “feels much more comfortable on the left side and performed much better on the left side.”

Fant will pair with veteran guard Laken Tomlinson, a free-agent signing after a Pro Bowl season in San Francisco, on one side of line. That means second-year guard Alijah Vera-Tucker will also be in a new spot this year, playing right guard next to Becton.

“Personally, I’m excited about that right side,” Saleh said. “You’ve got a couple of potential All-Pros, in my opinion.”