REX: Details of the Right Tackle Decision

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's morning news conference before the Jets' Thursday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:

First things first, I know what I said before about Wayne [Hunter] being the starting [right] tackle this week. The more I went back and looked at where we are at as a football team and getting feedback from coaches and knowing the history of Wayne, the success that Wayne had basically as a sixth man, I have decided that is the way we are going to go. I'm going to put Wayne in that role, where really he excelled, and that is being a guy that basically fits, whether it's being a tackle, guard, tight end. I'm going to move Wayne back to that role.

Again, you've played 10 years, and I know he has been heavily criticized, and is he perfect as a starting tackle? No, but nobody is perfect. I am saying this, I know the success that he had and the success he had when I got here for the first two years in this role, I think can really be helpful for this team. That is what I've decided to do.

We're going to give Austin Howard a shot to be with this first group, and I think when you look at the preseason games, this is really the last opportunity for him to work alongside Brandon Moore because obviously Brandon won't play against Philadelphia. I thought he earned that right. He played extremely well against Cincinnati, did OK against the Giants, but really played well against Cincinnati. This is what I want to do. I'm going to put him in that situation and we'll see how he does this week.

On if the team is looking to bring in another tackle…

In all fairness, you are always evaluating your team. For me to sit here and say, "Absolutely this is what is going to happen," if Jonathan Ogden called me up and said, "Rex, I'd like to come back," then Jonathan Ogden is our starting right tackle. That would be a story because he could probably do that. "Ryan tampers with Ravens" [joking]. I think that is kind of the mistake I made early when I sat down and said yes, he'll be [the starter]. I gave you a very honest answer that at the time was yes, I want Wayne in there.

The more I thought about it, I need to see Austin with this group and going against Carolina starters and the fact that I want Wayne in this role. That is a very valuable roll that we have had. In fact, you take a guy that is this kind of body type as a blocking tight end for instance, we had a lot of success with that my first two years here. What you do as a coach is you want to put your players in a situation where they can thrive and be successful and we have already seen that from Wayne so I feel good about that. I also want to see how Austin performs.

On when he spoke to Hunter about his new role…

I told him this morning. I feel great about it. Wayne's reaction is exactly how you want it to be. He is a great teammate; he just said, "Look, I just want to help the team." He told me, "Coach, if you want me to play defensive tackle again," because I actually played Wayne some at defensive tackle in goal line situations, he is just there for this team and it doesn't surprise me that that is his attitude. He is a team first guy without question.

On why the team didn't address the right tackle position during the offseason…

We were excited when we picked up Austin Howard. When he came in, I think he turned some heads, but to sit back and say we are going to put all of our eggs in one basket, we had to see it first. Obviously, you watch him in that first preseason game against Cincinnati, he is really moving people so that is another reason to get excited about it. Stepping back a little bit, looking at the role that we had Wayne in before, is a very valuable role. It is a valuable role and we know he exceled in it. In fact there are outside things, claiming when he was in there he was the number one blocking tight end in the league when we had him in those roles. You are always trying to do what is in the best interest of your football team and right now I believe that this is in the best interest of our team.

On why he could not play Hunter at both right tackle and the tight end position during the game…

Well, you could do that. But again, in some of those things, if you do that, obviously the player has to come out a play. So once you declare, for instance in that scenario that you're talking about, before Wayne would go back, or before your player would go back to playing tackle, he has to sit out a play. That's another reason why in an ideal situation, we have it now with Wayne, just like we used to have it my first two years here.

On if the team is in the market for a starting right tackle…

Well, we're always looking for things. Mike Tannenbaum and Scott Cohen and JoJo [Wooden], they're always looking to help improve this football team. And if we can improve this team, whether it be a tackle, a corner, a whoever, then certainly we're not going to shut ourselves out of that possibility.

On why he said Tuesday that they were not in the market for a starting right tackle…

Absolutely, because right now I'm thinking that, we're OK. But a starting right tackle, I don't know if that's the case. Now look, I don't know exactly what's out there. We don't know what's going to be cut from other teams, or anything else. But when the question came in, I answered it honestly, that I don't believe you're going to find somebody right now that can be a starting right tackle ahead of who we have. Now we'll see how Austin plays.

On if he's discussed his decision with Mark Sanchez…

No.

On how much Saturday's game affected his decision…

Well, I think sometimes it's more than that. I think it's the history that I have with Wayne. And I've seen Wayne perform, we all saw it. During the playoffs, we had a huge run through the playoffs he plays four games against four of the premier pass rushers in the game and he shut every one of them out. I mean, as far as no sacks, and played terrific. His role was different. And he did a tremendous job in that role.

I just look at it, not just the fact that [Jason] Pierre-Paul beat Wayne Hunter for a sack or two, or whatever it is. He's going to beat a lot of guys for sacks in a one-on-one situation. But I just looked at this man excelled in this role, excelled in it. And hopefully now, we all understand that he'll do whatever's asked of him. But in that role, he absolutely excelled for us. And I'm excited to get him back in that role. We haven't had that role. Last year, we never had somebody that could play that role.

On when he knew Hunter would not be the starting right tackle…

We just thought that he's better in this role, and that's it. The man's played 10 years in this league. You don't bluff your way into the National Football League for 10 years. Ten minutes maybe, but not 10 years. Obviously, he's got a lot of great tape. We focus on, hey, he's got some bad plays. Everybody has some bad plays. Now, he wasn't the only one that never performed up to maybe expectations last season. It starts with me. From top to bottom, we all probably took our turns last year did not perform to where we wanted to and that starts with me. But again, I'm looking at the big picture of, this man can really help us in this particular role. I know he can, he's done it. And I'm excited to get him back in that role.

On if Coach DeGuglielmo is still supportive of Hunter.…

He's always supportive. He really believes in Wayne, there's no doubt. But when I made the decision, it's based on the history that I've had with Wayne. I just go back to where I looked at him and at times, he was outstanding in this role. And that's what I'm excited about having.

On if some players are not cut out to be starters in this league…

Well, I don't know. Look at basketball players. There are some guys that are better as the sixth man in basketball than they are as the starting guys, more valuable to you. I look at what Wayne can do for this football team, it's very valuable. When you can plug a guy in all across the line and as a tight end, all of a sudden now, we are a ground-and-pound type mentality. When that big guy comes in there at tight end, everybody in the ball park's going to think we're going to run. We don't have to run. You can put him in as the sixth man in protection. And you can not disappoint them, you can run behind him. So I think there's a lot of that.

I remember going against Mark Bruener from Pittsburgh all those years as a coach. He was a tremendous blocking tight end. Somebody said, "Oh, he's a tackle over there." That gave me an idea then that, you know what? He is a big tackle over there and they could still run the football with the best of them and hopefully that's where we'll be as well.

On what gives him confidence in making Howard a starter…

Let's see how he performs this week. We'll have a better understanding how he works with his teammates, with Brandon Moore and company, but he certainly has a great skillset as well. Here's a huge man that can bend and we always say he comes off with a flat back, which is unusual for a man that size. Most guys that size will bend at the waste and won't have the power. This guy is a power player when he comes off with that flat back. Those are things that I've noticed out of him.

On if the criticism against Hunter affected his confidence.…

I don't know, I think you'd have to ask him. Certainly, no one likes to be criticized. That's human nature, nobody does. As thick as my skin is, I don't want to be criticized, but that's just part of it. I've been criticized once or twice.

On what he is looking for in the Panthers game…

Just keep taking steps forward and I think that's the big thing. I think we did that in the game against the Giants. "How can you say that?" We ran the ball pretty effectively at times. We were fairly efficient in some of the runs that we had. I would like to see us protect the quarterback better, run the football, keep running and see if we can't throw the ball down the field a little more effectively this week.

On talking to Mark Sanchez about his interception in an offensive meeting…

I'm in meetings, offense, defense, I'll make a point here or there. He was [9-of-11] passing, pretty good efficiency throwing the football. Obviously, the protection needs to be better, but at the end of the day he was [9-of-11] but had the one interception. On that particular play, he slid to the left and then threw the ball. He doesn't need to make that throw. If you are going to, just lead it a little quicker, get it out there, let's get the completion and see what happens. that if we protect the football, we're going to be a tough team to beat.

Oh how much Sanchez will play on Sunday…

We'll play Mark into the third quarter, and then we'll play Tim [Tebow] to finish out the game.

On if the Wildcat will be used in the preseason…

Let's get them prepared for it a little bit. But I don't see us really running the Wildcat in the preseason.

On Joe McKnight's injury…

I don't have an update on Joe right now.

On if Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley will play Sunday...

I hope they can, I've said it the whole week. I was encouraged by both of them yesterday. Both of them were running around and they looked pretty good. We've been kind of increasing their workload as we get going into this week. I'm hopeful that they'll play.

On why the Jets have so many high-profile players that have versatile roles…

I think that when you look at it, you're always trying to add depth. That we know that going through a season, you need to find ways. Really, a role for [Antonio] Cromartie, might be a guy that can play wideout, get you through a game. That's what you look at. Could he be a weapon as a receiver? I believe he can. The guys has great size and speed and can run all day. So anything we can do to help our team, then that's what we're going to look into.

When you look at Wayne, I've always loved having him in that role. As you guys know, he's not a bad receiver. He can actually get down the field. He moves a lot better than you'd think for a guy of that size. He can absolutely move. In the past I thought it was funny, because we had Ben Hartsock, I think, would catch a ball a year, whether he needed to or not. And then [Matthew] Mulligan I think caught two balls last year or whatever it was. And I'm like, "Oh, I don't know. Are we better off putting a tackle there? I think Wayne can catch a ball." So we'll see, we're going to find out.

On if they would try to trade Hunter… I mean, you'd have to ask Mike [Tannenbaum] that question. I'll say this, we're happy Wayne's on our team. I think we're excited to put him in this role. But you'd have to ask Mike. Obviously, I don't get involved in any of that type of stuff so you'd have to ask Mike.

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