Crunch time for Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims and New York Jets' 2020 draft

Jets receiver Denzel Mims, a second-rounder in 2020, has 31 receptions for 490 yards over two seasons. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Disappearing draft: By the time they line up to face the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 11, the Jets probably will have only one member of their 2020 draft class in the starting lineup -- tackle Mekhi Becton.

One starter out of nine picks. Ouch.

The Jets are hoping that others, most notably wide receiver Denzel Mims and safety Ashtyn Davis, snap out of their freshman and sophomore doldrums to become viable contributors. These next few months are absolutely vital for them and other bubble players such as defensive end Jabari Zuniga and running back La'Mical Perine, who has dropped weight.

It speaks volumes that the Jets have already made higher draft picks at the same positions as four players from the '20 class: wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore over Mims; defensive end Jermaine Johnson over Zuniga; running backs Breece Hall and Michael Carter over Perine; and cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner over Bryce Hall, who leads the draft class with 24 starts.

Sometimes the draft is hard to explain. The Jets have employed the same general manager, same personnel department and same scouts for the past three drafts. The early returns on 2021 and 2022 are terrific. For 2020, not so much. What did change was the coaching staff, which means schemes changed -- factors that can't be dismissed.

Two of the nine 2020 picks already are gone -- quarterback James Morgan (cut) and guard Cam Clark (retired/injury). The organization still has high hopes for Becton, but injuries and a weight issue have clouded his long-term future.

Mims is the most confounding to the organization because of his exceptional size and speed, but he has struggled with injuries, illness and the playbook. Right now, he's no better than the WR5, which means he's not a lock to make the team. The Jets are talking him up, perhaps to enhance his trade value.

Coach Robert Saleh said Mims is "a lot further along than he was a year ago," noting that he's working to improve his catch point and efficiency on contested balls. A year ago, Mims was trying to regain his strength after bouts with food poisoning and COVID-19.

"Denzel is doing better," Saleh said. "[It's his] second time around, he’s in fantastic shape, looks really good."

Davis (16 starts) is a former college track star with excellent speed, but he's a shaky tackler with questionable instincts for the safety position. It's crowded back there, and he, too, faces a fight to stay on the team. Cutdown day might not be kind to the Class of '20.

2. Musical linemen: The Jets have 16 defensive linemen on the roster -- 16! They figure to carry at least 10, with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich saying the goal is to have so much depth that no one plays more than 30-35 snaps per game.

Wait, what?

This isn't breaking news -- there was a heavy rotation last season -- but Ulbrich said they expect to do more subbing because the depth is better than last year. This is a big part of the Saleh-Ulbrich philosophy. Ulbrich called it a hard-and-fast rule, saying that "asking them to play any more than 35 snaps, I think, is detrimental to their health and to the quality of play." No exceptions, he said, not even if they had stars like Aaron Donald or Nick Bosa.

It's a questionable tactic -- why put a player in a box? -- but it's probably a moot point because the Jets don't have anyone of that ilk. For the record, John Franklin-Myers (43 snaps) and Quinnen Williams (39) led the line in snaps per game in 2021. It's worth noting that Bosa averaged 46 as a rookie in 2019 under Saleh, the former San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator.

3. Buddy system: Carter, the team's leading rusher last season, has embraced the idea of sharing carries with Hall -- a great attitude. Carter said he learned to appreciate the benefits of a timeshare during his time at North Carolina, where he split the workload with Javonte Williams (Denver Broncos).

"For the first time in my life," Carter said, "that showed me we can all eat."

4. Left, right: The Jets haven't tipped their hand with regard to their plans for Becton and George Fant, neither of whom is participating in voluntary workouts. One school of thought: Keep Becton at left tackle, so he can play alongside the steady and experienced Laken Tomlinson. Move Fant back to right tackle, so he can help groom Alijah Vera-Tucker, who is playing right guard for the first time since college.

5. Three for the Ring: After five years of dormancy, the Jets are inducting D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis into the Ring of Honor -- all deserving. Ferguson and Mangold, in particular, should be celebrated because they could be the last of a dying breed -- cornerstone players who spent their entire careers with the Jets. They arrived together in 2006 and played until 2015 and 2016, respectively. Sadly, the Jets haven't had any star "lifers" since them.

6. Did you know? Revis, who also spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, played 108 games with the Jets. Only two of the 19 players in the Ring of Honor played fewer games in a Jets' uniform. Can you name them? Answer below.

7. GM's sleepers: Joe Douglas, in an interview with ESPN, singled out tight end Tyler Conklin and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas as potential surprises among their free-agent additions.

Douglas said Conklin "looks like he could be a nice under-the-radar find. I think C.J. [Uzomah] and Conklin are going to make a pretty strong duo in this offense." He said Thomas is "a guy who brings unbelievable intensity and effort every day. I feel like he’s a strong addition to an already solid defensive line."

8. No waffling: French toast isn't D.J. Reed's thing for breakfast. Never tried it, probably never will. As he explained, "If I have a cheat day, I never say, 'Oooh, that French toast looks good.'" For the record, he's more of a waffles and pancakes guy. Maybe it's an occupational thing; cornerbacks don't like to be associated with the word "toast."

Reed isn't afraid to shake up his diet. Trying to improve his 40-yard-dash time in college, he gave up chicken and steak for four years, going vegan at one point. That changed in 2020, when he developed minor injuries with the Seattle Seahawks. He was introduced to Russell Wilson's chef, who suggested it would be healthier to go back to eating chicken and steak.

He took the advice, enjoyed a strong 2021 and landed a three-year, $33 million contract in free agency. That's a lot of pancakes.

9. Trivia answer: Matt Snell and Al Toon played in 86 and 107 games for the Jets, respectively. Both had their careers cut short due to injuries.

10. The last word: "Pressure, no. Urgency, yes." -- Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur on whether he feels pressure to get quarterback Zach Wilson to another level