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EA Q&A: Bilal Breaking Out, Crazy Depth on D

We are past the midway point of our Cortland stay.  And finally there is a game in sight as the Jets open their preseason schedule Friday night in Cincinnati against the Bengals.  Keep sending the questions in (simply fill out the form on the side of this page) because we will come back with another "EA Q&A" on Thursday.

TJ Washington, DC

Q: How is the competition going between Hunter and Howard? Is Howard raw in talent or a true threat to Hunter? Hunter still scares me.

EA: GM Mike Tannenbaum said last week that the Jets can win with Hunter's "A" game. Everyone witnessed Hunter's inconsistent play last season and he knows he has to do better.  He is still the guy at RT, but Mr. T. is going to keep looking for opportunities to improve the roster at all positions. 

Austin Howard, who is 6'7", 333 pounds, has appeared in four games in his career and made one start.  There have been a couple of occasions at camp when he has stood out and he has good knee bend for a big guy.  He is not that raw — it's more of an issue of consistency.  If he can string together solid practice after solid practice, yes he'll definitely get a long look.

But Hunter has been solid thus far and that Jeff Otah deal was no risk, high reward.  I liked that move and they lost nothing when he didn't meet the terms of the trade.  Hunter has been solid though and somebody is going to have to unseat him for that job.  He is a powerful dude who has developed better technique and he loves his new line coach — the fiery Dave Deguglielmo.  I have always liked Hunter as a run blocker and we've seen him succeed as a pass blocker in the past.

Kwame Hometown: Queens, NY

Q: I know this is random, but how does Jeff Cumberland look?  Last season he seemed to be developing before he got injured.   He and Keller could create match-up problems at TE.

EA: The Jets like Cumberland.  He has good athleticism and soft hands.  He has looked fine, but Jeff has yet to flash and there is a probably a good reason for that.  The Jets want to see him continue to develop his run blocking skills — remember this is a former receiver on the collegiate level.

In the past, the Jets had a pair of blocking tight ends in Ben Hartsock and Matt Mulligan.  You can think of Cumberland and Josh Baker as like 2A/2B.  While Baker is more of a hybrid and his versatility is an asset (dude just made a sweet grab out here from G-Mac for a 20-yard score), Cumberland's role as a blocker will be critical because he probably is the only potential true "blocking" TE in the group.

Jim Tiverton, RI

Q: Can this defense be a dominating "D"?  I'm not talking good — I'm talking SPECIAL.

EA:  A few things have to go right for the defense to be special.  I'll take somewhere in-between and you can win a lot of games with that. 

There is crazy unprecedented depth here.  Let's start along the line where you have Wilkerson, Pouha, DeVito, Ellis, Couples and Dixon.   The Jets are ridiculously stacked at ILB with an improved Bart Scott, the elite David Harris, Josh Mauga, Nick Bellore and rook Demario Davis.  LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith are all starters at safety.  

Nobody should be able to run up the gut against this crew and I don't foresee edge problems with Bryan Thomas back healthy across from Calvin Pace.  Who is a better Sam OLB than Pace in the league?  The corners are good and if LaRon Landry stays healthy, the safety position is strong. 

How quickly can Quinton Coples develop up front?  I love what I've seen from Aaron Maybin and he'll get more snaps at OLB this season.  In Monday's morning session, Maybin lined up over center in a package and just sprinted by Matt Slauson (Nick Mangold was not back from the Olympics yet) for an easy sack of Mark Sanchez.  The Jets think Muhammad Wilkerson can be special and we know Darrelle Revis is already there.

The Jets are most creative in their blitz schemes, but will they be able to sustain consistent pressure off the edge?  You would love to see more takeaways in 2012.

Tom R. Philadelphia

Q: What do you think about the Darrelle Revis vs. Stevie Johnson matchup?

EA: Quoting from my buddy Bart Scott, "Can't Wait".  Revis is the best and Johnson is elite.  In fact, Johnson is the only WR in the history of the Bills with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.   You have the technician in Revis going against an underrated player in Johnson who runs his routes with vigor and he can get you with the double move.

Both guys will be up for it too because there is a mutual respect there.  Johnson's antics at MetLife Stadium last year were classless, but he says he's more matured heading into this season. 

I feel fortunate to just watch Revis practice.  This guy never takes a play off.  He is a consummate pro and his form is tremendous.  He is so hard to beat outside the numbers and if Johnson chooses to go to the middle, he should be aware where Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry are on the field. 

Bob Massapequa, NY

Q: I was wondering what role Bilal Powel is going to have in the Jets offense.   I really liked him at Louisville. What is his role for the 2012 season?

EA: Bob, Bilal is having one of the best camps of anyone here in Cortland.  He has shown a knack for finding the hole and using quick feet to bounce and pick up yards.  Powell also looks dependable out of the backfield as a receiver.

Shonn Greene is the clear No. 1, but Powell looks like he is going to challenge Joe McKnight for time in the backfield.  He has been a pleasant surprise.

Queens, NY

Q: How is Sparano's QB coaching different from Schotty's?

EA: Interesting question.   The point to remember is that the QB coach is the same person who was here last year — Matt Cavanaugh.  Whereas Schotty was a former quarterback (a backup in college who transferred to Florida to learn under Steve Spurrier), Sparano's initially started coaching up front with the offensive line.  Both men are fine football coaches and I think Schotty will have a lot of success in St. Louis with Sam Bradford and company.

The most noticeable aspects of Sparano's teaching have been his stress on knowing the system and then executing fast.  Tempo has been stressed more than at any point that I can remember and Sparano has been impressed with his starting quarterback.

"One of the things is just that this guy has tremendous passion to learn and to get better," he said of Sanchez.  "He's not afraid of criticism, okay?  I think that is important at that position.  I can be critical with Mark because you have to do it.  It's the nature of the business."

I just see a Sanchez who is more at ease this summer.  The guy is oozing with confidence despite the fact that Tim Tebow is behind him and that he is learning a new system under Coach Sparano.  They already have a good relationship. "Sometimes you have to say, 'This isn't where the ball goes.  We don't want it here.  We need you to do it this way.'  At the same time you have to be able to tell him that is exactly right," Sparano said recently.  "He threw a ball today to Dustin Keller down there in the red area that is exactly the way we coached it, exactly the way we talked about it, but not every quarterback can throw it that way.  I have been really impressed with what he has done and how hard he has worked on his own to learn this system and the amount of time he has put in that way."

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