Wayne Hunter is not a very popular person amongst those who care about the New York Jets these days. His name is getting tossed around a lot, but not for any positive reasons. Most hoped that when the nightmarish 2011 season came to a close, so would Wayne Hunter's day as the starting right tackle. The Jets retained Wayne Hunter, selling a story that he would be improved this season after having a complete offseason under the watchful eye of the coaching staff. In his first preseason action last week, there was no apparent improvement to be seen. With Austin Howard expected to see time at right tackle with the first team this week, is the end in sight?
Austin Howard took some reps at right tackle with the New York Jets first team offense on Wednesday, supplanting embattled current starter Wayne Hunter. Wayne Hunter gave up multiple sacks against the New York Giants last week. This week, Austin Howard is expected to take some snaps with the first Jets offense when they play the Carolina Panthers this Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
If Austin Howard does start over Wayne Hunter at right tackle this season, he will bring something to the table that Wayne Hunter lacks: athleticism. One of the reasons the Jets are high on Austin Howard is his athletic ability. He was a tight end in college before moving out to tackle, with pretty good feet for such a big man. While most have pointed out his ability to get to the second level with his athletic ability, it also helps in pass protection when trying to block a superior athlete such as Jason Pierre-Paul or Mario Williams. Good feet are just as important in a good pass set on the offensive line.
Wayne Hunter has been exposed athletically multiple times during his reign at right tackle, causing him to be overzealous in his kick-step to get out on the speed rush. That opens up the inside rush lane, which has come back to bite Wayne Hunter multiple times as well. Often when Wayne Hunter has allowed multi-sack games against him it's been the result of trying to overcompensate where he was beaten prior.
The ability to move forward from a mistake is also important for an offensive tackle. No offensive tackle is perfect, and pass protecting 25-30 times a game against the defensive ends in the NFL makes giving up sacks an inevitable part of the position. Dwelling on those sacks or allowing them to impact your approach compounds the problem and often leads to more mistakes and more sacks given up. That has been a problem for Wayne Hunter and he has admitted it, even with mistakes from one week being dwelled on into the next week.
Is Austin Howard the answer? We will get a legitimate look this week if he does get some snaps with the first group. The Jets need to find some kind of answer at right tackle and with the failed attempt to bring in Jeff Otah, Austin Howard is about as good an answer as they are going to find at this point.
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