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Tannenbaum expresses confidence in Hunter (sort of), but open to other RT options

Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter talks to the

Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter talks to the media after the team's offseason workout at their practice facility in Florham Park, N.J. (May 10, 2012) Credit: Joe Epstein

CORTLAND – With Jeff Otah already en route to Carolina after his failed physical, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum was left to defend the offensive linemen who still remain on his roster.

On Tuesday, Tannenbaum expressed confidence – albeit tepid, at times – in current right tackle Wayne Hunter, whose starting job has been in question since the end of last season. The GM also praised Austin Howard, whom he said has performed better than expected. But that doesn’t mean the Jets will stand pat.

No deals are imminent, Tannenbaum said, “but I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

The Jets – who acquired tackles Ray Willis and Stephon Heyer in the offseason – traded for Otah last week, despite lingering questions about his health. And a week later, they were shipping him back to Carolina after his second failed physical.

Otah had two surgeries on his left knee and was placed on injured reserve after playing in just four games the past two seasons. Nevertheless, Otah said the Jets told him he would have a chance to compete against Hunter for the right tackle job.

Otah, of course, never got the chance.

“We believe in our staff,” said Tannenbaum, who wouldn’t say whether Otah’s failed physical was due to his previous knee injuries or poor conditioning. “Jeff worked really hard and again, the terms weren’t met. Our feeling was, if we had the seven days, let’s take them all and see where it goes.”

With Otah no longer an option at right tackle, attention again turned to Hunter, whom. Tannenbaum said has “done well.” But the GM also complimented Howard’s surprising play in practice and hinted at moves down the road.

"There’s going to be competition from within, as well as on the streets," he said. "We’re encouraged by Austin Howard. Look, it’s early in camp, but there’s some encouragement there. I think we’ve identified some teams that have some depth and sometimes these things take a while. But I think Wayne’s done a good job, and Austin, in particular, has done better than we thought he would.”

Tannenbaum’s praise of Wayne hasn’t been effusive like those of offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.

“I did read those,” the GM said with a laugh, referring to DeGuglielmo's comments. “Wayne’s done a good job for us. Road playoff games – we’ve all seen Wayne do well. I’m just saying, if there are other opportunities out there to add good players, that we wouldn’t rule that out. But certainly, when we signed Wayne to an extension, it was based on good film, winning road playoff games. He’s off to a good start.”

So does Wayne have the inside track on the starting job?

“No question,” Tannenbaum said. “Yes, he’s our starting right tackle – until that changes.”

Like Rex Ryan, GM Mike Tannenbaum praised Jeremy Kerley’s work ethic, but said “these smaller, nagging injuries, is a little bit of a surprise to us. But knowing the way he’s approached things in the past, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t ready for us,” said Tannenbaum, adding that Kerley is projected to have “a significant role” this season. The GM also is excited to see WR Jordan White (foot) compete in the slot.

…Vladimir Ducasse is competing with incumbent starting left guard Matt Slauson because that’s “the best position” for him, said the GM. Tannenbaum also described Ducasse as “emerging” and “a young, ascending player.”…Tannenbaum wouldn’t discuss Darrelle Revis’ contract situation, but said he had a “good conversation” with the cornerback a few days before the team left for training camp.

… The GM also said Tannenbaum isn’t concerned that Holmes’ recent “scapegoat” comment on ESPN radio will have a negative effect on the team.

New York Sports