Wayne Hunter's pass protection just one of Jets' big issues on offense
Wayne's world is a difficult universe to exist within.
The Jets right tackle often is alone on his own island, left to block the best rushers in the game by himself while fielding constant questions about his turnstile blocking and his standing within the organization.
"It's always been on the line. It's not a surprise," Hunter said of his starting job following the Jets' 26-3 preseason loss to the Giants on Saturday night. "It's either I perform or they're going to find somebody else better."
Truth be told, Hunter brings the scrutiny on himself. Fans can only watch for so long as Mark Sanchez, the face of the Jets' franchise, gets pummeled in the pocket before they start pointing fingers. And in the Jets' case, the major breakdowns in recent memory have come on the right side of the offensive line. Hunter's side.
In his first game of the preseason, the veteran right tackle -- who still has back tightness -- played a role in three sacks of Sanchez. It would have been four had it not been for an offside penalty on the Giants.
On the first Sanchez sack, Osi Umenyiora blew past left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, prompting the Jets quarterback to step right into the rushing lane of Jason Pierre-Paul, who had completely manhandled the 318-pound Hunter. On the Jets' first drive of the second quarter, Umenyiora broke free of Ferguson again and combined for a sack with fellow defensive end Justin Tuck, who blew past Hunter. Soon after, Tuck got by Hunter again, this time sacking Sanchez for a loss of 6 -- but Umenyiora was called for a dubious offside penalty, which negated the sack. And on the Jets' final drive of the first half, Pierre-Paul bull-rushed Hunter to take down Sanchez.
"He's going to beat a bunch of tackles in this league," Rex Ryan said of Pierre-Paul. "Clearly, we have to be mindful of that. I thought [Wayne] was able to do some good things, but I want to watch the tape before I isolate one guy. I have a tough time believing it was one guy."
The Jets are high on backup right tackle Austin Howard, who started in Hunter's place during the Jets' preseason opener in Cincinnati. But offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has highlighted Howard's inconsistent play.
Sanchez has taken the preseason sacks in stride, and even joked about the beatings his body has taken since 2011. "That's why I put on a little weight," he said with a smile.
But Saturday showed that Hunter is only a portion -- albeit a large portion -- of the Jets' issues. Their lack of pass protection, coupled with receiver injuries and recent mental errors have resulted in stunted offensive showings, 12 sacks allowed and two preseason losses. The Jets are the only team in the NFL not to score a touchdown this preseason.
The first quarter started promisingly but quickly stalled as the Giants stuffed the Jets on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. There were also five first-half penalties.
Rookie receiver Stephen Hill was a non-factor in the absence of Santonio Holmes, Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley. Hill, who wasn't targeted in the first half by Sanchez, caught two Tim Tebow passes in the third, but couldn't come up with an underthrown Tebow pass in the end zone. Rookie receiver Jordan White had a team-high three catches for 28 yards.
The Jets coaching staff will insist there is no game-planning in the preseason. But consider this: The Giants didn't show anything fancy, and Tom Coughlin's club had no trouble handling their one-one-one assignments and stopping the Jets.
"Whether it be the vanilla part of our offense or the exotic plays of our offense, we've got to be efficient at it," right guard Brandon Moore said Sunday on Sirius XM radio. "And we weren't last night."