In the aftermath of right tackle Wayne Hunter struggling against the Giants in Saturday's preseason loss, Jets head coach Rex Ryan wouldn't commit to Hunter remaining a starter.
"I'm not painting myself into a corner," Ryan said on Monday.
The struggles Saturday won't do anything to quell the calls to replace Hunter, who allowed 8.5 sacks and was whistled for 11 penalties last season. The Jets tried acquiring competition at right tackle, but their trade for Jeff Otah was voided when he couldn't pass a physical.
Ryan remained supportive of Hunter late Saturday night and pointed out he was matched up against Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul for most of the first half.
"I want to watch the tape before you isolate one guy," Ryan said on Saturday night. "I have a tough time believing it was one guy."
Due largely to the struggles of the offensive line, the Jets' "ground and pound" attack has yet to begin clicking. The Jets have rushed for 181 yards on 51 carries (an average of 3.55 yards per carry), including just 65 yards on 24 rushes against the Giants. No back has run off a 10-yard gain yet.
Ryan was also frustrated with the Jets' short running game Saturday. The Jets didn't gain a yard in three 3rd- or 4th-and-1 rushes in the first half against the Giants, including consecutive tries in which starter Shonn Greene and fullback John Conner, respectively, were stuffed with the Jets at the Giants' 36-yard-line midway through the second quarter.
"That was brutal -- absolutely bad," Ryan said. "They met us in the backfield both times. I might have been more disappointed in those things than I was in anything else."
The Jets aren't in panic mode yet, but the urgency is beginning to increase with the third preseason game -- the one which most teams treat most like a regular season contest -- coming up against Carolina on Sunday.
"This is our last chance," Sanchez said. "We need to play well. We need to put our best foot forward in this last dress rehearsal for (the regular season opener against) Buffalo. And I'm confident with a week of prep our guys will be ready."
The Jets' schedule allowed full seven days to prepare for the Panthers this week, which provides extra time for the offensive line to jell and for injured wide receivers such as Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens to heal.
"We have a lot more to fix than the Giants do, clearly," Ryan said. "At the end of the day, these preseason games, I'm not going to say they don't matter because they absolutely matter. But your record maybe is the only thing that doesn't matter. But these games are important, there's no doubt. And you've got to get better and you've got to focus on those things."
Austin Howard, a 6-7, 333-pound project in his third season with mostly practice squad experience, might get a chance to prove he's Hunter's superior. The Jets will also keep one eye on the waiver wire as the first wave of roster cuts is only 10 days away.
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