As formidable as any defensive line in football, the Giants were to give the Jets a test rarely seen in the preseason, and they did exactly that.
Embattled starting right tackle Wayne Hunter was thoroughly embarrassed by the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and company, giving up 2.5 sacks officially, with another wiped away by an offsides penalty.
After fully supporting Hunter throughout all offseason and training camp, some Jets coaches are beginning to lose patience with the veteran tackle.
Head coach Rex Ryan wasn’t ready to endorse Hunter as the Week 1 starter when the season kicks off for real in September, a change from his tone in weeks and months past.
“I’m not going to paint myself into a corner because things happen,” Ryan said.
“To sit back and say, ‘This guy is going to be the starter,’ I’m not ready to do that,” Ryan said. “Maybe with Darrelle Revis, Brandon Moore and Nick Mangold, yes.”
“But is it a slam dunk, 100-percent [with Wayne Hunter at right tackle]?” he said, “I like to see guys compete and earn a job.”
With the Jets preparing to face the Carolina Panthers this weekend, Ryan was asked if Hunter is going to start and get most of the first-team reps, and he responded with a cryptic, “we’ll see how it goes [in practice] this week.”
Young backup Austin Howard has impressed, and if the Jets do not go outside the organization to find another tackle to compete with Hunter, Howard may be the beneficiary.
Former Jets right tackle Damien Woody, now an NFL analyst, offered words of encouragement to his former teammate and successor at right tackle, saying that Wayne Hunter needs to “trust himself.”
“[Hunter]’s one of the most athletic guys I’ve ever been around. He’s one of the most athletic linemen in the league,” Woody said. “When I watch him sometimes it is as if he doesn’t want to make a mistake. You can’t play that way.”
“You have to go out there and trust your athletic ability and that’s how you win your battles. That’s the bottom line. Are you going to get beat sometimes? Yeah. The best of the best get beat.”
Whatever the reason for Hunter’s struggles, the Jets are no longer going to be as patient with their presumptive starting right tackle.
If he doesn’t shape up soon, he may find himself out of a job. Wayne Hunter is officially on notice.