FLORHAM PARK, NJ: As everyone knows, schools across the country are gearing up for another year. We’ve all been there—adjusting to some of the easiest days the school year has to offer. Whether it’s receiving a syllabus and pretending to listen how the semester is planned out or filling out emergency contact information, the first few days are a breeze.
“I almost feel like school’s are starting up,” said Rex Ryan. “Public schools start up on Thursday and all that, you kind of feel like you’re starting school. First Wednesday of a game week, first game of the regular season, there’s so much excitement.” Go back to the first days of a college or high school semester. Imagine expecting to be able to settle in and take it easy for a few days. What if instead, you were handed one of the hardest assignments of the year, right off the bat. Austin Howard, a third year tackle who was awarded the starting position less than two weeks ago, was assigned to Bills’ Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams, for Week 1 of the NFL season. “Probably the only thing worse than that would be the [DeMarcus] Ware kid that’s going up against somebody tonight,” said Ryan, who didn’t sugarcoat the tough matchup. “He’s a heck of a pass rusher,” echoed Nick Mangold. “He gets after it. It’s going to be a challenge for us and were going to have to hold up the best we can because he’s a heck of a player.” Williams, who spent his first six years in the NFL as a Houston Texan, signed with the Bills for a six-year up to $100 million deal. The deal included $50 million in guaranteed money and is the richest contract ever given to a a defensive player. The 6’6″, 292-pound Williams has started in two Pro Bowls, but missed 11 games last season with a torn pectoral muscle. “Obviously he’s a tremendous player,” said Ryan when asked about his initial thoughts of the Williams signing. “Your first thought is you’re going against him, but then it’s like, ‘Hey he does get to play New England twice’. Obviously you took notice of that one.” Howard became the starter before the Jets preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, after the coaching staff decided it was time to move on from embattled tackle Wayne Hunter, who was eventually traded to the St. Louis Rams. “He has long arms, he’s quick,” said Howard of Williams, “all the things good pass rushers have, he has it. There defensive line is the forefront of that defense.” But Howard wasn’t interested in the individual matchup, but more the offensive line as a unit to protect the quarterback. “We respect their defense a lot, but we are very confident as an offensive line,” said Howard. “As a unit we want to play together and make sure we protect the passer and make holes for the runner. That’s our goal and that’s what were going to try to do.” Believe it or not, Mark Sanchez started his answer the same exact way Mangold did when asked about Williams. “He’s a heck of a pass rusher. He really is a game changer type player,” said Sanchez. “He’s one of those guys, playing against him in Houston, who gets his hands on the quarterback and you’re in trouble.” After praising Williams, Sanchez said encouraging words about one of his bodyguards. “It puts a lot of emphasis on Austin, and I know he will rise to the challenge and play well for us,” said Sanchez.
Ryan wouldn’t divulge information on what would be done to help Howard so he is not left him one on one with a premier defensive end for long stretches. “I guess we’ll find out,” said Ryan. “You don’t want to just leave him or anybody out there by themselves down after down, but sometimes he is going to be by himself. There’s things that you have to do against any great pass rusher to help slow him down.” Howard did not have an answer either, saying “No clue, however many times they call those plays” in response a similar question. But even with this matchup perhaps being in the Bills favor, Ryan is confident in the offensive line as a whole to get the job done. “I think were the only one in the league that has three Pro Bowl players in it, so it’s easy for me to be confident,” said Ryan. “They’re a tight group, they work extremely hard and I think it’s going to be an outstanding group. They will be challenged this week.” Although Ryan mentioned the only thing being worse would be to go up against Ware, Howard has already been through that. When asked if he has went up against anyone comparable to Williams, Howard quickly responded with, “DeMarcus Ware my rookie year.”
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