Austin Howard entered camp at SUNY Cortland for the second consecutive year penciled in as the starting right tackle on the Jets O-line. While he's "very confident," his running with the ones won't stop him from continuing to stride toward being the best player he can be.
"I know that for me personally, and as an offense, we all have to get better," the fourth-year tackle said. "You don't want to ever plateau. Until the day you stop playing, every day, you have to continually get better, whether it's your third year starting, your fifth year starting, or your 20th year starting."
Despite all efforts to improve each day, this morning's practice did not go as well as it could have for the Jets. Rex Ryan cited red zone turnovers, penalties and a general lack of focus as a few reasons why he was displeased with the team's on-field performance.
Howard echoed his head coach's statements: "Whether it was a blocking assignment or a missed pass or a dropped pass or whatever it was, the offense got off to a slow start."
The first-team offense finished strong though, as QB Mark Sanchez and RB Bilal Powell led the unit down to the goal line and in for a score in 11-on-11 drills against the first-team defense.
"We had to pick it up for that period," Howard said, "and I believe we did."
After the scoring drive, Austin headed toward the sidelines, unstrapped his helmet, and turned to fellow linemen Nick Mangold and Willie Colon for a recap and analysis of what they had just experienced in the trenches.
"It's the same as when we play in a game. We come off the field to the sideline, we talk, and we want to collectively get an idea about what's going on out there, what we missed, what we see, and what our overall feeling is of the defense," Howard explained.
Coming together collectively as an O-line to dissect the previous series of plays helps toward attaining a strong sense of chemistry with the guys you line up next to, which Howard says is "huge."
"Just getting on the same page really boosts our ability to go up to the next stage and be more successful," he said.
Getting on the same page with his trenchmates will be an added challenge for Austin Howard this season, as the man to the left of his 6'7", 333-pound frame will likely be a first-year Jet, with veteran newcomers Colon and Stephen Peterman and rookie Brian Winters as the lead candidates for right guard.
He describes Colon and Peterman as "the same type of vet" as Brandon Moore, the team's RG last season.
"They know how to work, they've been in the league for a while, they've seen everything on the board," he said, "so it's really nice to work with these types of guys."
As the O-line goes, Howard says, so goes the rest of the offense.
"We have to set the grounds for having a stable run game as well as a stable pass game," he said. "I think that all starts up front."