After losing the preseason position battle to fourth-year lineman Vladimir Ducasse, third-round rookie G Brian Winters has been primarily watching from the sidelines during the games. He's taken the field just once for an offensive play.
Come Monday, however, that number could go way, way up for the 22-year-old.
"It's been a good week," said Winters, who's been working with the ones for the first time since the preseason. "I definitely feel like I've gained my confidence back."
Head coach Rex Ryan wouldn't commit to his starting left guard for Monday night's game in Atlanta quite yet.
"We'll still battle this week," Ryan said today, "but certainly he's been getting a majority of the reps with the first team. He's looked good."
If given a chance to play, Winter's goal is simple: Do no harm.
"I don't want to be someone that skips a beat," he said. "I want to go in there and I want everyone to feel confident and not have to worry about me."
If he's to achieve his goal, he'll have to avoid adding to the penalty tally.
While Ducasse has shown glimpses of good play throughout the young season, six penalties in the last two games may have precipitated the coaches' decision to consider shuffling the starting lineup.
There was a flag thrown on Winters today, "so we've got to get that fixed," Rex said.
But as far as Brian's concerned, it'll be an "easy fix."
"I just released too fast on a screen," he said, adding it was the first time the team had run that particular play.
Might playing in a dome on the road present a difficult challenge for avoiding the yellow flags?
"No I don't think so," he said. "It really doesn't matter where you're playing or what you're doing. You just have to be keyed in on everything and know what you have to do. That's part of football."
Familiarity with his assignments when a play's called will help him hone in on blocking the defenders instead of thinking too much about what he's doing, and this theoretically should lead to fewer penalties. Winters hasn't received too many gameday reps, but he's learned what he has to do simply by observing.
"Just because you're not on the field, you've got to still be tuned in with anything because you really never know when you're going to be called on," he said. "When I was on the sidelines for the games, I watched the positions, I would make the calls in my head, I was helping Coach [Mike Devlin] with fronts and everything. Preparation and knowing what you have to do is big."
Perhaps the extra four weeks of mental preparation will pay off for the Kent State product. His limited playing time thus far could turn out to be a plus instead of a hindrance.
"I felt it was a good thing just to get my feet wet and feel it out," he said. "Just to see the game speed and everything, I thought that was a big eye-opening thing. For me, it's better not to jump right into it if you're not ready, so I feel that was a good way to learn."
With a few weeks of experience and a couple months removed from an ankle injury that kept him out of our first two preseason games, Winters' confidence is higher than ever before and the tackle-turned-guard is looking forward to a chance to play in primetime on national television.
"It's a great opportunity," he said of the Monday night matchup. "It's probably one of the most thrilling things you can conquer in football, so I'm going to have to keep cool and keep my calm, but it's going to be an exciting thing."