It’s easy to take some players for granted, because they’re always there.
Kelvin Beachum is almost always there for the Jets. He has become a living, breathing, walking (sometimes limping) example of toughness and dedication and an inspiration to many of his teammates.
The Jets’ offensive line enters Sunday’s game at the 0-11 Bengals without both starting guards from the beginning of the season. Brian Winters was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago and Kelechi Osemele was released five weeks ago after a contentious disagreement with the team about the seriousness of his shoulder injury.
Veteran center Ryan Kalil, whom the Jets signed out of retirement in training camp to a contract that’s paying him some $6 million this season, was placed on IR two weeks ago after not having played in the past month. He’s already home, not even rehabbing with the team.
The right tackle position has been a revolving door, with Brandon Shell losing his starting job to rookie Chuma Edoga and now back there after Edoga got injured.
All the while, Beachum, the 30-year-old, eighth-year left tackle, has been a steadying force — albeit not without his own injury issues. He missed three games with a left ankle sprain.
Beachum, who’s listed as questionable on the injury report but is expected to start at Cincinnati, will play his 100th career game Sunday.
He’ll do that the way he has done it for most of this season: By scraping himself up off the mat, shaking off his latest ailment and suiting up. Beachum initially hurt his left ankle, which then kept getting aggravated for a couple of games.
It became like that cut or bruise on your hand you keep inadvertently banging against walls, furniture, car doors, etc. At Washington, Beachum had his already-tender left ankle rolled up on in a scrum and was wearing a protective boot on it after the game.
That didn’t keep him out of last week’s home game against the Raiders, during which he sprained his right ankle. That injury kept Beachum out of practice this week, but it isn’t expected to keep him out Sunday, when the Jets will trot out their seventh offensive-line combination in 12 games this season.
Head coach Adam Gase shook his head when asked about Beachum on Friday, calling his toughness “impressive.”
“It just shows his competitiveness, his toughness, his want to help this team win a game,” Gase said.
Gase said he believes the way Beachum conducts himself is a valuable example to the younger players on the offensive line and the team in general.
“It’s what you want them to see,” Gase said. “Any time your captain is out there and he’s battling through all kinds of things … he just keeps his head down, doesn’t complain, just goes to work. He wants to practice. He doesn’t feel great when he does, but he does everything he can to make sure that’s he’s prepared for the game. You want as many guys as him as possible.”
How important is Beachum to the Jets?
They’re 4-4 with him playing and 0-3 without him.
Beachum missed three games –the 33-0 loss to the Patriots, the 29-15 loss at Jacksonville and the 26-18 loss at Miami.
This fact is not lost on quarterback Sam Darnold.
“Beach is awesome,” Darnold said. “The way that everyone communicates when he’s in there, he’s a really good leader and a really good pass protector and a great offensive lineman.”
“That’s just who he is,” Darnold said. “He is the kind of guy that, if things aren’t going well, he’s like, ‘What do I have to do to help this team win?’ That’s all he’s going to do. He’s just a really good leader, a great captain, a really good teammate. He’s been battling through some stuff this year, and we recognize it, too.”
So, too, do Beachum’s defensive teammates, players who make their living trying to ruin games for guys who play Beachum’s position.
“Any offensive lineman that’s been in the league for that long, you’ve got to have that type of mindset where you fight through some stuff, and Beachum is that type of dude,” defensive end Henry Anderson said.
“He’s clearly a leader on this team,” linebacker Brandon Copeland added. “It shows how important it is for him to be out there fighting for this team. And, it’s a great lesson to young guys and guys who don’t understand how you stick around in this league, what you need to do to prepare to be here and be there on the field on Sundays.”