New York Jets: Moving Hunter to Blocking TE Is a Step in the Right Direction

Matt DienstagContributor IIIAugust 23, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Wayne Hunter #78 of the New York Jets runs with an American Flag on to the field during pregame festivities against the Dallas Cowboys during their NFL Season Opening Game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The inevitable has finally happened, Wayne Hunter has been demoted and will no longer be the starting right tackle for the New York Jets.

For Gang Green, if nothing else, the move is a step in the right direction. Anyone with eyes could see that the writing has been on the wall, especially these last few days.

On Monday, head coach Rex Ryan spoke with the media and wouldn't commit to Hunter as the starting right tackle. After allowing 2.5 sacks in two quarters to the New York Giants in Saturday's preseason game, head coach Rex Ryan didn't exactly give Hunter a vote of confidence.

"To sit back and say this guy’s definitely the starter, I’m not ready to do that," Ryan said. "I like to see guys compete and earn their jobs out there."

The following day, Hunter was excused for personal reasons from Family Night at Metlife, a practice open to the public held at Metlife Stadium.

And now, finally, Rex Ryan has removed Hunter from his starting position and replaced him with the third-year tackle out of Northern Iowa, Austin Howard, at least for the time being.

According to Dennis Waszak Jr., while Hunter's role will diminish, it will fulfill a need that the Jets have been searching for.


Rex basically calling Hunter the #Jets' blocking TE - a role he performed two years ago. Told Hunter this morning.

— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73)


Lets face it, Hunter's confidence has to be completely shattered. He's been torn apart by every New York newspaper, blog, radio station and television talk show. His teammates have shown him some support, but that can only go so far if all the other noise around you is negative.

By moving him out of the spotlight, he can rebuild his confidence by not only playing a role he is more comfortable in, but by fulfilling something the Jets need.

By lining Hunter up as a blocking tight end in certain play packages, the Jets will have a bigger player at that position than normal. Chances are he won't have to line up against a premier pass rusher and will no longer have to constantly live in fear of being mowed over.

By moving Hunter to blocking tight end, it should drastically improve the Jets offensive line, assuming Howard can be anything better than Hunter at right tackle. Even from a small sample size, I'd say those chances are pretty good.

Howard has already seen plenty of repetitions with the first team because of a back injury that has kept Hunter out of practice and the first preseason game. From what I noticed at the Jets open practice on Tuesday, Howard was picking up the blitz well and keeping the pass rush away from Sanchez.

Howard has received plenty of praise from his coaches to this point, probably the main reason for removing Hunter from his starting role. 

However, Howard is still not in the clear to starting opening day according to ESPN beat writer Rich Cimini.

Ryan says he needs to see Howard with other starters, but won't commit to Howard as opening-day starter. Team exploring trade: sources.

— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini)

Sunday will be a huge test for Howard, as he will get the start against the Carolina Panthers. While the Jets will continue to search the trade market for an available offensive tackle, I would presume that if Howard performs well on Sunday, he will get the nod for opening day.

Whatever happens though, one thing is clear, Wayne "Turnstile" Hunter is finally going back to the bench.