Last Sunday was something of a transition for Ben Ijalana, who knew he would be starting on offense against the Dolphins for Ryan Clady and his ailing shoulder. But with Clady going on IR this week, it's now official.
Ijalana is the Jets' new starting left tackle. And he's well aware of how that sounds.
"In Jets lore, for the last 10½ years, there've only been three people to man that position," Ijalana told me after today's practice. "That aspect is kind of like, wow, this is something that is hard-earned and not easily passed down."
What's more, Ijalana is getting input not only from Clady, one of those two other LT starters, but also from D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who anchored the O-line for all 10 seasons from 2006 until his retirement this past offseason.
"I see D'Brickashaw about once a week. He lives in a neighboring town and he's my good friend," Ijalana said. "He told me to just play ball, which is something I've already been doing. But I hope these next few weeks I'll maybe grow closer to him in relatability. Our schedule's the who's-who of edge-rushing monsters and All-Pros and and All-World-caliber athletes.
"Maybe we'll get to a point where I look at him and he looks at me and there's just a secret understanding of the day-to-day struggle of a left tackle."
Ijalana's next battle will be Los Angeles' active, tenacious four-man front and in particular RDE Robert Quinn, the Rams' first-round pick back in 2011.
But Ben's a former second-round pick himself that same draft and he's been patiently waiting his turn to play for the Green & White. He's not happy with the injury that moved him to the first offense but he's already gotten his feet wet with a good game at Miami in which he was a big part of the Jets' 140-yard rushing offense and didn't yield a sack.
"I'm appreciative that the organization was like, 'You know, Ben, you're the guy for the job,' which is kind of an honor," he said. "Nobody ever sings praises for the backup left tackle, but when the one goes down, the two steps up, so I think it's pretty cool."
And Ijalana's plan for the Rams and beyond?
"My goal is to play well and become invisible," he said. "I don't want you to notice that there's a new tackle out there."
Top Photos from the Second Day of Prep for the Los Angeles Rams
Tall TalesYou get used to talking up to large players in NFL locker rooms, but the newest Jets practice squad player, Zach Sterup, is taller than almost every other player in franchise history.
"Yeah, I'm 6'9"," Sterup said, adding the measure isn't fudged. "Eighty-one inches."
He's also 318 pounds, so it can be a long pass rush around him. But he said there are pluses and minuses to the height.
"I'm a long guy so I have some reach, and if I get my hands on people I can really lock out and keep the defender off my body," he said. "The biggest challenge is just leverage, getting low and staying low, underneath people."
Sterup, who played with Brent Qvale at Nebraska, still has a way to go to play in a game and qualify as one of the tallest Jets ever. The tallest on record actually was a Titan, 6'9" DT Joe Katchik, who played two games for the franchise's first team in 1960.
Among the 6'8" players in franchise history are tackles Billy Shields, Matt Willig, Scott Gragg and Anthony Clement, and DT Ropati Pitoitua. And while T Breno Giacomini is listed at 6'7", we know he considers himself 6'8", which is mirrored in his uniform number 68.