Few right tackles around the league get as much attention as Jets ORT Wayne Hunter, but unfortunately for Hunter, it is rarely positive. A lightning rod for many Jets fans, Hunter, who replaced the retired Damien Woody as the starter last season, led the team with 11 penalties and gave up 8½ sacks, per Stats LLC.
But the Jets failed to provide much competition for Hunter, outside of veterans Stephon Heyer and Ray Willis — who was cut — and sixth-round draft pick Robert T. Griffin. A trade for former first-rounder Jeff Otah last week got fans excited that, if Otah was healthy, he could win the starting job and provide an upgrade. However, Otah failed his physical and was shipped back to Carolina.
The way we hear it, one player who has stepped up in practice is Austin Howard, who spent last season on the practice squad and played in four games with one start for the Eagles in 2010. Howard is not at a point where he will take Hunter’s job, but it is worth watching. Even GM Mike Tannenbaum singled out Howard’s play to reporters on Tuesday, saying that Howard “in particular, has probably done better than we thought he would."
It remains a possibility that the team brings in a veteran or makes another trade before the season starts if Hunter isn’t getting the job done, though the staff has often given Hunter praise. The new offense could help Hunter, as it has fewer audibles and checks. Hunter had seven false-start penalties last season.
- Wayne Hunter