Thursday, August 23, 2012

Being relieved of duties must be a relief for Hunter


Change was coming at right tackle for the New York Jets. It just took way too long.

According to multiple media reports, Jets coach Rex Ryan announced Thursday that embattled offensive lineman Wayne Hunter was being demoted to a backup position in favor of Austin Howard, who now has the starting right tackle gig by default.

Early this offseason, Hunter referred to himself as the team's "weakest link" last season, and he appeared to be just that through two preseason games the last two weeks. He was consistently overwhelmed with the opposition's defensive rush and gave up a plethora of pressures on quarterback Mark Sanchez, a handful of them resulting in sacks.

Now, Hunter will assume the job he had in 2010: the team's swing tackle, who will be used in extra-protection and running-down situations -- something the Jets will use plenty of Week 1 against Mario Williams and the Buffalo Bills.

Hunter will make $2.5 million in guaranteed money this season. That, combined with the fact that the microscope has turned from him to the Jets' front office and coaches, has to be a relief.

Gang Green failed to address their issues at right tackle early in free agency or in the draft. They tried to make things work with Jeff Otah, a first-round pick in 2008 formerly of the Carolina Panthers, but he failed his physical and was shipped back to Carolina before getting released.

Howard, an undrafted free agent in 2010 who started just one game last season for the Philadelphia Eagles, will have to step up big time. The Jets will obviously continue to explore other options, but there aren't many out there.

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