Lost in the bonanza following the New York Jets 48-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills was the standup job performed by unproven right tackle Austin Howard. Howard replaced Wayne Hunter, otherwise known as the EZ-Pass Lane, and matched up against Mario Williams, one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
Not only did Howard not allow a sack but the Jets felt comfortable enough with Howard to stop sliding protection over his way as the game progressed. Not a single Bills player recorded a sack, a 180-degree turnaround from the preseason when it seemed Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow spent half their time on their backs.
Howard, 25, was an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. He would go on to play in four games that season, including one start at left tackle. He was cut the following year and spent some time on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad before the Jets signed him on November 25, 2011.
Howard has a good blend of size and skill. He stands at 6-7 and weighs in at 330 pounds. He is much better suited for right tackle where his size can be an advantage in the running game. He uses a decent hand technique to keep pass rushers at bay and could actually be a long-term solution for the Jets at right tackle.
Howard was thrust into the role of starting right tackle after the Jets benched, and later traded Wayne Hunter. There were some questions surrounding the Jets logic of thrusting a guy with such limited NFL experience into a starting role and having his first real game experience since 2010 come against Mario Williams.
However, all the worrying was cast aside and Howard performed very well, even after the Jets stopped sliding extra protection his way. He still has some things to work on, such as his footwork in passing situations which seemed a bit clumsy at times but overall Howard had a great game.
There is no doubt that Howard’s performance helped breathe new life into a stagnant Jets offense that scored only one touchdown all preseason. What a difference some protection along the offensive line makes.