CORTLAND – As of now, Austin Howard is Wayne Hunter’s main competition at right tackle. But that hasn’t stopped the incumbent veteran from sharing his knowledge with the youngster.
Howard, 25, has spent much of his limited NFL experience at left tackle, but it’s Hunter who has stepped in to offer assistance.
“Technique-wise he’s gone over specific looks with me or whether it’s certain plays just to make sure that my footing is right or my hand placement is right,” Howard said. “It’s helped out a ton.”
Hunter, who did not play in Friday night’s preseason opener in Cincinnati due to a stiff lower back, returned to practice Sunday. He was held to “a pitch count” and rotated with Howard on first-team drills.
Despite Rex Ryan raving about Howard’s play, the right tackle isn’t getting ahead of himself. Asked what he envisions his role to be on the Jets, Howard said it’s too soon to tell.
“Right now, that was the first preseason game,” he said. “Nothing’s set in stone. As far as the season goes, right now, I’m not even looking to the season. I’m just focusing on this preseason, getting better every game and kind of focus on things like technique and staying in the playbook and making sure that I can do whatever the coaches ask me to do.”
Sparano said Howard played “75 percent” good during his 38 plays against the Bengals, adding that the offensive tackle showed “tremendous power.” But he also stressed Howard needs to be more consistent.
“There were several times where Austin really just did a hell of a job out there,” the offensive coordinator said. “There were a couple of plays that I know Austin wished he had back and those are things that we have to get better at.”
But when the topic of conversation shifted to whether or not Howard can push for Hunter’s job, Sparano cautioned: “When Wayne was there, he was doing a nice job, so we were up here talking about Wayne at that point.”
That might be true, but as is the case in training camp – “There’s competition all over the place,” said Sparano, who added, “I’m just anxious to get Wayne back and see the competition go at that point.”