Carl Lawson and Mekhi Becton are not built the same, but they share a mentality: Each expects to win his individual matchup on every down.
It’s impossible to do, but it’s the approach that has led to the most intriguing matchup through the first four days of Jets training camp. And it’s only going to make Becton a stronger pass blocker and Lawson a better edge rusher.
The 6-2, 265-pound Lawson has stood out early with his quickness and ability to use a power spin to get past Becton and to the quarterback.
Lawson was in the backfield plenty the first three days of practice, getting "sacks" and disrupting the offense. But the 6-7 Becton, who weighs in the neighborhood of 370 pounds, did a better job Saturday of keeping Lawson from getting to quarterbacks.
"It’s really good for Mekhi and Carl," coach Robert Saleh said. "It’s like the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size, right? Carl is not going to see a man that big, and Mekhi is not going to see a man that small and sawed off and as strong as he is.
"For those guys to get that work, they’re making each other strain in different ways that they’ll see all season. Because of it, I think they’ll get better for it."
Things could look a little different on Monday, the first time the Jets will practice with pads. Saleh reminded everyone that the offensive line is more at a disadvantage than the defensive line when there are no pads.
Becton said he’s looking forward to battling Lawson with the pads on. The second-year left tackle knows this matchup will help prepare him even more to protect Zach Wilson’s blind side against real opponents.
"It helps me a whole lot because I can get my losses out of the way right now," Becton said. "When it’s time for games, I’m going to be ready for sure. Iron sharpens iron. He’s getting me better and I’m getting him better."
Lawson was the Jets’ biggest offseason signing. They gave the former Bengal a three-year, $45 million contract to create havoc in Saleh’s 4-3 front.
His sack totals from his four seasons with Cincinnati — 20 in 51 games — don’t jump out, but he led all defensive linemen with 32 quarterback hits last year. Lawson said "finishing" is a main area of focus for him.
Lawson won’t reveal his goal for how many sacks he wants to record, but he gave a very round number of how many he believed he left on the field last year.
"Maybe 100, because every rush is supposed to be a sack for me," he said. "That’s how I evaluate, so 100 sacks.
"Every rush, when I watch film, it’s now, ‘Hey I’m supposed to win, I’m supposed to get the sack.’ It’s impossible, but that’s how I treat it."
The Jets’ defensive line is perhaps their strongest unit, especially when tackle Quinnen Williams returns from foot surgery. Saleh estimated that he could return within the next three weeks.
The Jets are still figuring out who will be on the opposite side of Lawson. But with Williams and Sheldon Rankins on the interior, offensive lines will have their hands full with the Jets’ front. Lawson could feast if he’s in one-on-one matchups.
"He doesn’t check a single box in terms of height, length, size, none of it," Saleh said. "But when you turn on the tape, all he does is win over and over and over again. In the NFL, you can never have too many guys who just win play after play after play, and so that’s why he fits.
"He fits in any scheme. He’s the guy that’s going to line them up and he’s going to absolutely dominate his one-on-one, especially in money situations where you need somebody to affect the game, and that’s the type of player he is."