Joe Douglas drafted Mekhi Becton to be the biggest brick of the foundation, a Mountain Man Monstrous bodyguard who would be standing between his young quarterback and the predators with bad intentions for the next decade if the Jets were lucky for a change.
The way they were lucky once with D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
Of course they called him Brick.
From the time GM Mike Tannenbaum selected him with the fourth pick of the 2006 draft, Brick started 160 consecutive games, protecting the blindside of Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens and Brett Favre and Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick. He somehow played 10,707 out of 10,708 regular-season offensive snaps. That one he missed was the last play of the 2008 season when the Jets removed their offensive line for a desperation Stanford Band lateral flurry with cornerback Darrelle Revis lining up in Brick’s spot.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson never missed a practice!
The Jets, and no one more than Zach Wilson, need Mekhi Becton to start being their Brick as soon as he returns from his Week 1 dislocated right kneecap.
He is 10 weeks removed from surgery and he’s finally back on the field trying to get his knee and his conditioning right. He missed two games as a rookie and played 70 percent of the snaps.
“Just a bigger body, bigger human,” Robert Saleh said two weeks ago.
And therein lies the crux of the matter: Will the bigger-bodied human’s size ultimately prove to be a blessing … or a blessing and a curse?
Becton was the 11th-overall pick of the 2020 draft, and there were some evaluators who rated him the best of the four elite tackles in the class.
“The guy moves people like furniture,” assistant general manager Rex Hogan said.
Which you would expect from a nasty 6-foot-7, 373-pound man with eye-opening gifts that can make you drool.
But you can’t move furniture if you can’t make it to the living room.
“A big, mauling guy that was able to keep himself low, and he’s got great quickness and speed,” former Jets center Nick Mangold told The Post. “I saw him a couple of times out in front of guys on different screens and whatnot. I’ve actually never seen Mekhi in person. I’ve done things virtually with him and I’ve texted with him, but because of COVID last year, didn’t get to see him play live, and then this year the games that I went to he’s been injured.”
Mangold, a seven-time Pro Bowler in his own right, saw firsthand from Ferguson how important it is to be a pro’s pro.
“The physical skills are obviously important,” Mangold said, “but the mental skills as well. Seeing how he’s picking up the game, I’d love to be able to chat with him and talk about the game itself, because that’s something that I think Brick did really well was he was a student of the game, he was always learning, always asking questions even if he thought it was the stupidest question and Alan Faneca was gonna make fun of him, ’cause he wanted to have the right answer all the time.”
Douglas has wisely begun making good on that promise he made to Sam Darnold’s parents shortly after he replaced Mike Maccagnan, telling the Darnolds he would do “everything in my power to take care of Sam with protection and playmakers.”
Douglas doubled down in the 2021 draft when he traded up for left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and selected wide receiver Elijah Moore in the second round and signed Corey Davis to a three-year, $37.5 million free agent contract. Wide receiver Denzel Mims, a 2020 second-round pick, has dropped the ball, but at least visions of an Art Shell-Gene Upshaw tandem may have been dancing in the GM’s head with Becton and Vera-Tucker mauling people and keeping Wilson upright.
“It was neat being able to impose your will,” Mangold said.
Remember, it was Rex Ryan’s Ground and Pound with Ferguson and Damien Woody at the tackles, Faneca and Brandon Moore at the guards and Mangold at center paving the way for running back Thomas Jones that helped a rookie quarterback named Mark Sanchez reach back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010.
Here is Mangold on Tuesday on Ferguson: “It was like his security blanket. Knowing that you have Brick back there protecting your blindside, the side you can’t see anything coming at you, has to be an unbelievable feeling. Knowing that you’re protected there and all you have to worry about is what you see.”
Wilson has considerably better arm talent than Sanchez, but while he cuts his teeth and endures these growing pains that make most rookie quarterbacks and fans bases flinch, a comfortable pocket and complementary running game that prevents him from being one-dimensional will always ease the pain and aid the growth.
Much was made in the summer about Becton being schooled often by edge-rusher Carl Lawson, and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur called him out at one juncture. But on the eve of the start of the regular season, the Jets were expecting to see Becton dominate.
“It’s going to be fun to watch him play,” Saleh said.
It certainly hasn’t been fun watching him not play. Fortunately for the Jets, George Fant has been a godsend as a pass blocker. When — or if — Becton is back fully healthy, Fant could prove to be an effective bookend for him on the right side. Douglas is rebuilding brick by brick. So much rides on his biggest Brick.