When perennial Pro Bowler Alan Faneca was released in the offseason, the window of opportunity opened up on the starting left guard position for the Jets. The two leading candidates to replace Faneca were out on the field in Cortland today, opening holes for the running game and protecting the quarterbacks from the defense's pressure.
One candidate is Vladimir Ducasse, the second-round pick in this year's draft out of Massachusetts. The other is Matt Slauson, the second-year man who played in three games last season.
"This is a dream come true. I never thought I'd be at this position this soon," said Slauson. "I was a late-round pick [sixth round, 193rd overall, in 2009], and wasn't sure I'd even make the team last year. Now I'm competing for a starting job on the No. 1 offensive line. This is huge."
"We'll rotate them as Bill [Callahan] wants," said head coach Rex Ryan at today's news conference. "We're giving both guys equal shots and we're going to let the best guy play."
At today's first two practices of camp, Slauson got the majority of the reps with the first offense.
Slauson, who played four years at Nebraska under Callahan, the Jets assistant head coach/offensive line, feels that his familiarity with Callahan's system will give him an advantage.
"My goal every day is to learn as much as I can from Bill. He's one of the best line coaches in the country," Slauson said. "One thing is that he knows exactly what I bring, and that builds a lot of confidence in me that he stuck his neck out to bring me in here — 'I know this guy can get it done' — and that was really big."
The 6'5", 330-pound rookie Ducasse has the physical strength, the quickness advantage, and has potential on his side in his pursuit of the starting position. However, his weakness could be that he is still a rookie and not yet completely familiar with the way the offense works.
"He's phenomenal. He's got great feet, great balance, has long arms," Slauson said. "I don't have the long arms or quick feet that he does, but what I do have is five years in this system now while he has only three months."
The fight for the spot will be competitive but there can't be a personal rivalry if the Green & White want to achieve their ultimate goal.
"I told Vlad the first day we got to camp that we're competing, but we have to be friends. There is no room for animosity and maliciousness in that locker room," Slauson said. "We have one goal, and that's the Super Bowl."