Vrentas: Tackle Austin Howard impresses Jets coaches
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Rex Ryan gave rave reviews of Austin Howard, a back-up tackle who started Friday's preseason opener when Wayne Hunter was sidelined with a back injury.
The Jets coach singled out Howard as someone who "played like a Jet," a physical player who drove defenders off the ball and finished blocks.
"You look at a guy like this, anybody that can play the way he plays is trying to tell you something," Ryan said. "Youíve got to find a way to get him out there."
Neither Ryan nor offensive coordinator Tony Sparano outright said there is a competition between Howard and Hunter for the right tackle job, though Sparano pointed out there is competition "all over the place." The two players rotated at the right tackle spot with the first-team offense today, but Sparano said that's because the trainers have Hunter on a play count due to his injury.
"Obviously Wayne hadnít been out there practicing, so Austin has been playing right tackle," Sparano said. "When Wayne was there, Wayne was doing a really nice job. We were up here talking about Wayne at that point.
Weíre anxious to get Wayne back and see the competition go at that point.
But Austin doing what he's done right now, quite honestly, itís becoming a little bit of a habit."
Howard, who was signed by the Jets off Baltimore's practice squad last November, said most of his experience is as a left tackle. Hunter has helped Howard out adjust some of his techniques, including his hand placement and footing, to the right side.
Sparano praised Howard for playing with "tremendous power." The next step, he said, is becoming more consistent. Sparano said Howard played well on 75 percent of plays in Friday's preseason game, which he said is "pretty good" for a lineman.
Howard doesn't have any expectations for his role this season.
"Right now, that was the first preseason game," he said. "Nothingís set in stone. As far as the season goes, right now, Iím not even looking to the season. Iím 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."