Why the Jets' Aaron Rodgers and Mekhi Becton share a special bond

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

1. Emotional intro: The meeting happened in Las Vegas, where the Jets played three weeks ago. Mekhi Becton's mother introduced herself to Aaron Rodgers, and soon there was a warm embrace and tears of joy for Semone Becton.

There have been a lot of stories since the spring about how the star quarterback has impacted individual players on the Jets. Becton, the 6-foot-7, 360-pound tackle, might be at the top of the list. After battling two devastating knee injuries, a weight issue and intense criticism from fans and media over his first three seasons, the 2020 first-round pick felt alienated at times. He needed supporters.

Recognizing the situation, Rodgers took Becton under his wing before the season, and they hit it off. In Vegas, Rodgers received mom's seal of approval.

"She went up to him and just told him, 'Thank you for having my son's back,' and things like that," Becton told ESPN. "And he was just like, 'Mrs. Becton, I hug your son every day, so I know how it is.' And she started to tear up a little bit and they even hugged. So it was a great moment, for sure."

Playing on a twice-repaired right knee that still isn't 100 percent, Becton has pushed through the season with a newfound determination. He missed his first game last week with a sprained ankle, but he's expected back in the lineup Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. He's finally becoming the player he was supposed to be, and he gives a lot of credit to Rodgers.

"I feel like having him as an ear, as a person that actually listens and I can actually vent to, he understands where I'm coming from," Becton said. "It's definitely been easy to talk to him and stuff like that."

It's not all about football.

"It's more spiritual," he said. "Just opening my eyes to new things, for sure."

When Rodgers emerged from the locker room on Wednesday -- his first practice since Sept. 13 Achilles surgery -- he noticed Becton in the trainers' area and went over. The two men embraced for several seconds. Why? Because it was their daily hug, that's why.

2. Frustrated Cook: Dalvin Cook had only one rushing attempt in the most recent game -- a career low. It was two carries the week before. For the season, it's only 50. Suffice it to say, this season isn't going the way he envisioned in August, when he signed a one-year, $7 million contract.

"For any guy that has produced in this league, it's frustrating," the four-time Pro Bowl running back told ESPN. "You want to be productive."

Cook said he doesn't regret his decision to sign with the Jets and he wasn't hoping to be traded at the Oct. 31 trading deadline. He said he won't ask for his release because his family is settled in New Jersey. Basically, he's just going to ride it out.

"I was hoping just to be in the right situation for me," he said. "Like I said, I want an opportunity. I feel great. My body is ready to roll. I was just hoping for a great opportunity."

Cook spoke in the past tense. Asked if he believes his opportunity has passed, he replied, "You tell me." He won't go to the coaches to ask for more touches.

"Honestly, I feel like if you put my tape on, I proved myself in this league," he said. "I don't go beg for carries. I feel like I was brought here for a reason."

Cook, who had no training camp, was sluggish early in the season, but he has looked quicker in recent weeks (41 yards on his last seven carries). It might be a good idea to give him more touches, especially with Breece Hall mired in a six-game slump. Cook is watching and waiting.

"I think I could change the game sometimes," he said. "That's just who I am."

3. Reality check: The Jets are getting criticized for their handling of the backup quarterback position. Clearly, the offseason decision to hand the job to Zach Wilson hasn't worked out. But know this: When a team is forced to play its backup, the results are rarely good.

Look around the league. When forced to start a backup because of an injury to the starter, teams are 14-26 (.350), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. (This doesn't include the Jets' backups.) The only backups with at least two wins and Total QBR above the league average (52.4) are the Indianapolis Colts' Gardner Minshew (4-3, 53.7) and the Chicago Bears' Tyson Bagent (2-2, 53.5).

Wilson and Tim Boyle are a combined 3-7 (.300). While it's no excuse for the offense to be performing at a historically poor level, the leaguewide trend shows that head coaches can't be miracle workers with a QB2.

4. Nice wheels: Rodgers has a customized scooter in front of his locker. It's green (of course), with No. 8 painted in white. It has a tiny New Jersey license plate, a vanity plate that says, "WATCH ME." Cracked one teammate: "No one touches that thing."

5. Just soup-er: In his first post-injury interview with the local media, Rodgers revealed one of the secrets to his quick recovery: Bone broth.

"I'm drinking freaking bone broth every single day," he said.

The broth contains large amounts of nutrients and collagen, which benefits tendons, among other things. Rodgers, still aiming to play this season, believes diet has been a key to his quick recovery. He avoids foods that trigger inflammatory responses. Examples: Sugar, red meat and fried foods.

6. Pine time: Wide receiver Allen Lazard said he was "caught off guard" by last week's benching. He understood the rationale once it was explained to him. This has been a disappointing year for Lazard, who has only 20 catches after signing a four-year, $44 million contract. He knows he can be better, but he also noted that football is the ultimate team sport. He will be active against the Falcons, coach Robert Saleh said.

Receivers coach Zach Azzanni has challenged his players, telling them someone needs to step into the WR2 role opposite Garrett Wilson. "But no one has taken the bait yet," he said. Lazard was supposed to be that guy.

7. Hammer time: Saleh hasn't been shy about dropping the hammer on underperforming players. Consider: He benched Lazard and Zach Wilson, demoted running back Michael Carter (traded) and phased out wide receiver Randall Cobb. Also traded was wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who never really got a chance.

Who's next? It probably won't happen this week, but tight end C.J. Uzomah has seen his playing time dwindle to almost nothing. There's no other option on the roster, but that could change next week when Kenny Yeboah could be activated from injured reserve.

8. No "one" to celebrate: The Jets have played 11 games -- 65% of the season. Why is this noteworthy? Well, this is when the Green Bay Packers and Cheesehead Nation were hoping to hit the draft-pick lottery.

The conditional 2024 second-round pick in the Rodgers trade was to become a first-rounder if he played in 65% of the snaps this season. The suspense ended in Week 1. His total: Four snaps, which projects at .004% of the snaps.

9. Ball magnet: Backup safety Ashtyn Davis has recorded two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, one of only five Jets since 2008 with at least two of each in a season. But here's the surprising part: He has played only 100 snaps on defense.

10. The Last Word: "If you're not able to call out your best players on offense, you can't really call out anybody. I said it last week: I take pride in being an 'A' player. If I get called out, you can't get hurt feelings. You can't be sad about it." -- Breece Hall, who was mildly criticized by Saleh