CORTLAND -- The word “competition” was never directly mentioned to Matt Slauson.
But after just a few minutes of team drills Friday, it was clear the Jets left guard will have to fight for his starting spot – against Vlad Ducasse, whom he split first-team reps with during practice.
A few hours later, Rex Ryan confirmed the pair will be battling it out for the left guard spot.
“Absolutely,” the Jets coach said. "Vlad's had a tremendous offseason. The fact that Matt, unfortunately, had the surgery and all that, it allowed Vlad to get some work there with the ones. We liked what he did in the spring, so that's some competition right there. Which I think is good."
The Jets also are giving Slauson work at right tackle (uh oh, Wayne!) and at center.
Slauson, who played through a left shoulder injury (which included a torn labrum, bicep and rotator cuff), was limited during minicamp after undergoing offseason surgery. And as much as he understands Ducasse filled in in his absence, Slauson said: “I definitely want that spot to still be mine.”
“In fairness to Vlad, he was there all spring. I was limited,” he added. “So I don’t really know the plan right now. Nobody has said anything to be about a competition. I just do what they say and I’m going to worry about that when it comes. I have to approach it like a competition or else I’ll get lax and I might lose my spot.”
Ducasse, a second-round pick in 2010, already has developed the “bust” label among Jets fans. But the 24-year-old remains confident in his ability and said he doesn’t care to listen to his detractors.
“I don’t care about the fans,” he said. “Fans will be fans. They will say whatever they want to say. That’s part of the business. You’ve got to be able to take criticism. And when you look at it, that kind of helped me push myself more.”
Ducasse said the first-team reps he took in practice show “they want me to get better, they have a lot of faith in me and they want me to push myself.” But he made clear that whatever position he’s put in, he’s ready to work.
“I’m ready to go, wherever they put me, I’ll do it,” said Ducassse, who alternated with Slauson after every two reps. “I know there’s a lot of people. Like coach said, everybody’s competing all over the line.”
Ryan challenged his offensive line players to learn more than just their position, citing the importance of "hidden depth" in the NFL.
"Don't be surprised if Cro learns some wide receiver," he told reporters.
Despite splitting reps, Slauson said it’s easy to maintain a rhythm with the first team because he’s familiar with guys like Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. “But when you start going in different groups, then it’s tough," he said. "Cause you work with a different center, you work with a different tackle."
“And they’re also moving me to tackle, and I’m working on a completely 'nother side, in a new spot, next to a new guy. That’s tough. But you’ve got to adjust.”
This past offseason, the Jets acquired several offensive linemen, either via free agent signings or trades. The result has been a turnstile of moving parts on the line and no clear sense of who is where.
But that’s no different than any other training camp, Slauson said.
“Every year there’s new faces, it’s a new team,” he said. “We’ll kind of see over the next couple weeks, what pieces are still here, who’s in what spot. And I’ll just adjust from there.”