A three-man race is down to two.
The release of nine-year veteran Stephen Peterman this morning leaves two players — third-round rookie Brian Winters and fourth-year veteran Vladimir Ducasse — as the lead candidates for the starting left guard position.
Winters missed the first two preseason games with an ankle injury, but "it's coming along," he said. "It's pretty much day and night from what it was before."
Head coach Rex Ryan said he was looking forward to seeing Winters play Saturday night against the Giants, and he got his wish. Although Ducasse started, Winters relieved Vlad toward the end of the first quarter and went on to play 60 offensive snaps — more than anyone else on either team in the game.
"It was pretty much my first live situation since I've been hurt, so a lot of things were thrown at me," Winters said. "But overall I thought I played well."
While he was pleased with his overall performance, the 22-year-old Kent State product wants to work on his footwork going forward.
"There's a lot of things that I thought I need to improve on from that game, but that's one thing I want to take away from it," he said. Recovering from the ankle injury shouldn't be a problem in perfecting his footwork craft.
"Before, it was, but obviously that's because I was just getting into the groove," he said. "Now I'm just going to go back to my basics and starting over."
As Winters was forced to watch from the sidelines with his injury, Ducasse benefitted from the added reps. A second-round pick in 2010, Vlad played in every game the past two seasons but started only one. His role as a backup could change, however, as Ryan has seen significant improvement "from top to bottom" in the 25-year-old guard so far this summer.
"You name it, mentally, instincts, physical," Ryan said late last week. "This is where you wanted him when you drafted him. You might have wanted him there a year before, but this is where he's at now, so he looks pretty good to me."
Time will tell whether Ducasse or Winters will come out on top. The team's current depth chart has Ducasse listed as the starter with Winters backing him up. With one preseason game and two weeks of practice remaining between now and the season opener, however, this competition still has a way to go.
"I just have to keep grinding and keep working on my craft," Winters said. "Nothing's really in my hands. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing."