Thursday morning New York Jets coach Rex Ryan announced that Austin Howard would take over the starting right tackle job from the struggling Wayne Hunter. That move had to be met by sighs of relief from Jets fans, and maybe from quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. After practice Thursday, Ryan explained the decision.
"You are always trying to do what is in the best interest of your football team and right now I believe that this is in the best interest of our team," said Ryan. "We are going to give Austin Howard a shot to be with this first group, and I think when you look at the preseason games, this is really the last opportunity for him to work alongside Brandon Moore because obviously Brandon won’t play against Philadelphia. I thought (Howard) earned that right. He played extremely well against Cincinnati, did okay against the Giants, but really played well against Cincinnati. This is what I want to do. I am going to put him in that situation and we will see how he does this week."
Asked if the Jets would seek to bring in another player at the right tackle spot, Ryan did not close the door on the possibility.
"Well, we’re always looking for things. Mike Tannenbaum and Scott Cohen and JoJo (Wooden), they’re always looking to help improve this football team. And if we can improve this team, whether it be a tackle, a corner, a whoever, then certainly we’re not going to shut ourselves out of that possibility," Ryan said. "I don’t know exactly what’s out there. We don’t know what’s going to be cut from other teams, or anything else. ... I don’t believe you’re going to find somebody right now that can be a starting right tackle ahead of who we have. Now we’ll see how Austin plays."
Howard has only four games of NFL experience, getting those with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. The 6-foot-7, 333-pounder is taking nothing for granted.
"Right now, it is the preseason. As a stand-in, I get to go out there and do as I am asked to and just focus on Carolina. Whenever they ask me to play, I will be ready at all times," Howard said. "I view it as an opportunity and I view it as something I have to take advantage of."
Hunter, for his part, was not surprised by the move.
"Everybody knows, the whole New York City knows that I've been struggling the last year and the last game I didn't do much better," Hunter said. "So, I wasn't surprised. I was waiting for it to be honest with you. I knew I was struggling. Everything was kind of going south for me."