As New York Jets offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse enters his fourth NFL season in 2013, he’ll be looking to crack the starting lineup for the first time in his career, as he competes for one of the open guard positions.
That’s not exactly what the Jets had in mind for Ducasse when they selected him out of UMass in the 2010 NFL Draft. His raw physical talents made him worth the gamble to former general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
A UMass alum himself, Tannenbaum’s faith in Ducasse’s development ultimately played a role in his firing, and now in the final year of his rookie contract, big Vlad is likely on his last legs when it comes to his Jets career.
A former second-rounder, Ducasse was expected to develop into a trusted starter on the offensive line by now, either at tackle or guard. He’s made significant strides, but like everyone in camp, he’ll have to earn his keep.
In John Idzik‘s first draft as Jets general manager a few weeks ago, the Jets drafted another tackle/guard in the third round in Brian Winters, and another tackle/guard in round five, Oday Aboushi. That could be pretty telling.
The Jets did lose their two starting guards, Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore, to free agency, but also added veterans Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman this offseason. The guard competition looks to be wide open.
That doesn’t mean that Vlad Ducasse is necessarily a goner, of course. The competition should ideally bring out the best in everybody. Going into his contract year, Ducasse has an enormous opportunity in front of him.
Without projecting too much, I do think 2013 is likely to be Ducasse’s last in a Jets uniform. He will, however, get the opportunity to show what he’s capable of, one last time. For better or worse, it’s either now or never for Vlad.