Describing his first four seasons with the Jets as "a little unorthodox" this week, veteran OL Ben Ijalana is adjusting to life at right tackle.
"The stagger of my feet are different, so you know the technique (is different)," he said this week during a Jets Spotlight interview with Eric Allen. "If you could imagine, I've drilled something so much year after year. Although I did play swing tackle, I was predominantly the backup left tackle and then a couple reps I'd do at right. But now, it's predominantly right and a couple reps I do left. It was just muscle memory that I haven't had and I need to just beat into my body. Even to this day every time we start practice, I just take sets of footwork."
A second-round pick of the Colts in 2011, Ijalana played in just four games as a rookie, suffered a pair of ACL tears and was waived/injured before the 2012 season. The 6'4", 322-pounder signed with the Jets in 2013 and eventually became the primary understudy to D'Brickashaw Ferguson at LT.
But when veteran RT Breno Giacomini started the 2016 season on the PUP list with a back injury, Ijalana became a co-starter there along with second-year lineman Brent Qvale as they alternated reps at practice and series during games. A New Brunswick, NJ Native, who entered the season with seven career games played, Ijalana has started three contests and become a fixture in the lineup.
"When we first started doing that, it was a little different," said the Villanova product of the rotation. "Brent is an invaluable resource to me and I hope I'm an invaluable resource to him. I go out there and tell him what I got, who I'm blocking against, what move they gave me, what looks, and he does vice versa. Truth be told, I go in for a series and give it my all. Then I have a series to recover and I get to go right back out there and do it again. So it's been working."
This week's opponent presents a tough challenge for the offensive line, a unit that has surrendered 9.0 sacks. The Cardinals' defense ranks No. 3 in the NFL in sacks with 18.0 and it features talented edge rushers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.
"A lot of freak athletes, a lot of speed. I'm expecting them to throw a lot of stuff at us. We need to rise to the challenge," Ijalana said. "They're going to be at home in primetime. It's the NFL, you expect everyone's effort and I expected a very spirited effort from this team. I don't think we'll catch them off guard, they'll be ready. It's primetime — the lights are brighter, everything is shinier and you just have to be cleaner. The whole world is watching and all your peers are watching."