Vladimir Ducasse has experienced his share of endearing moments since his rookie season with the Jets. There was the time he crashed his go-kart into a stack of tires during a preseason team bonding trip. And there were all the new words, ideas and concepts the Haitian-born offensive lineman had to add to his mental database once training camp started.
On the field, he competed for the left guard slot in the summer of 2010 against Matt Slauson and lost. He was mentioned for the right tackle spot in the summer of 2011, though nothing ever materialized and Wayne Hunter took the job.
He battled for the left guard slot again this summer, but Slauson won the right to take the snaps.
The same story seemed destined to play out for Ducasse, maligned by fans as a less-productive second-round pick, until Sunday. That’s when he took over for Slauson for 10 snaps in the second half — a move that might seem insignificant, but could carry larger repercussions down the road, according to one former player who spent time playing alongside both Ducasse and Slauson.
“I’m sure all of this stuff ties into the bigger picture,” former Jets offensive lineman and current ESPN analyst Damien Woody said.
Slauson was not injured and eventually returned to the game. Coach Rex Ryan said the move was simply a reward for good work, making it some of the most significant playing time Ducasse has seen with the Jets — a payoff for two years of enduring.
“If you have a good football player, then you should use him,” Ryan said.
“That’s always been my belief. I think Vlad has earned that right to play some.”
After Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, Slauson said he was “the wrong guy to ask” about what was happening. In the preseason, Slauson saw his salary cut and, despite being a two-year starter, he had to compete with Ducasse for the right to play left guard.
His contract expires at the end of the season.
Ducasse said he was told to be ready for reps before the Week 1 game in Buffalo. Now, he said his performance during these in-game sessions will dictate his playing time.
“The better I do, the more reps,” Ducasse said. “So we’ll see.”
To Woody, the reason could be for future planning.
Slauson, a former sixth-round pick, and right guard Brandon Moore are both free agents at season’s end, and having Ducasse in for 10 snaps per game could give the Jets coaches an appropriate film sample to evaluate him as a potential starter in the future, Woody said.
“That kind of stuff happens all the time,” Woody said. “The only way a team will be able to evaluate whether this guy can handle the position is to put him in during live-game situations.”
The worry in the meantime, however, is that it could interrupt the chemistry the current unit is building.
“More so than any other position group in football, it’s all about having those five guys playing like one,” Woody said. “To break that up, I mean, think about it: On average, you get about 60 snaps a game. That’s a quarter of the snaps if he’s getting 15. I think it disrupts the flow a little bit.”
Ducasse said he’s not worried about that, though, and is looking to pursue the reward:
More snaps, and a bigger distance between two troubling seasons.
“Getting better in practice is one thing,” Ducasse said. “But getting in the game and being on film is another.”