Rex Ryan would not say on Sunday whether third-year offensive tackle Austin Howard has played his way into challenging Wayne Hunter for the team's right tackle job. Howard has, however, gotten Ryan's attention. The Jets head coach said that Howard "was a load back there" during the team's preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"We’ve seen it on the practice field and he took it over to the game field," Ryan said. "Anyone that can play the way he played is trying to tell you something and you have to find a way to get him out there. I don’t know if that’s competition, but you earn your playing time in this league. I think you’ve got to put him out there some time. I don’t know how many reps, or whatever. I told the team for as well as he played, I don’t know. Is he going to play tackle? Is he going to play this spot, that spot? Is he going to play defense, because anybody who plays like that deserves to play. That’s something I was encouraged with. (He) put on a clinic."
Howard was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2010, and appeared in four games. The Jets signed him off the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad last November, but he never appeared in a game.
New York has been trying to upgrade the right tackle slot, where Hunter struggled last season. The Jets traded for right tackle Jeff Otah, but returned him to the Carolina Panthers when he failed his physical.
The 6-foot-7, 333-pound Howard has given himself a chance to show that he could be the solution.
"That was the first preseason game. Nothing's set in stone," Howard said. "As far as the season goes, right now, I'm not even looking to the season. I'm just focusing on this preseason, getting better every game and kind of focus on things like technique and staying in the playbook and making sure that I can do whatever the coaches ask me to do."