New York Jets Problem: Bad Play at Right Tackle

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - AUGUST 07: Wayne Hunter #78 of the New York Jets walks off the field after practice at NY Jets Practice Facility on August 7, 2011 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

I now turn my attention to the problem the Jets have at right tackle.

The Problem: Wayne Hunter has been one of the worst tackles in football so far in 2011. He is constantly getting beaten in the passing game. He is allowing an average of five passes per game get impacted by pressure. That is really, really bad. He is also getting no push in the run game.

Who Is to Blame? You can pin this one squarely on Mike Tannenbaum. He gave Hunter a new contract this year to make him a fulltime starter for the first time in his career. Hunter made five starts down the stretch and played reasonably well. While the degree of his poor play has been somewhat surprising, there were real warning signs. The biggest two were the two games he played in relief of an injured Damien Woody against Houston and Miami. Mario Williams and Cameron Wake had field days against him. Wayne looked in those games a lot like he has this season. Tannenbaum could have brought back Damien Woody. Woody indicated he was willing to return to the Jets. The team was scared off by his Achilles injury. At the time it made some sense. It is a serious injury that robs a player of his athleticism, particularly an older guy. No matter what, it is difficult to imagine Woody being worse. There were still other free agents available. Instead, Tannenbaum made a leap of faith in a guy who was a career backup. The only other option was a ridiculously raw Vladimir Ducasse.

Viable Options to Fix the Problem: Simply put, there are not many. As bad as Hunter has been, Ducasse has looked even worse in preseason and regular season stints at guard, which is a less difficult position. The external candidates are not either. The most mentioned name is former Saints tackle Jon Stinchcomb. Reality is Stinchcomb was just as bad in 2010 as Hunter has been this season. That is why no team has signed him. The best of the bad options is to give Hunter some help. That means leaving tight ends in to help. It means having tight ends, receivers, and backs chip outside pass rushers to throw them off balance to help Wayne. It means some misdirection, screens, and delayed handoffs to his side to slow down pass rushers. With Mangold returning, the Jets are going to be able to get away with helping Hunter more. There will be four good linemen. A team can scheme around one bad lineman. Once a second lineman good goes down as has happened with Mangold, extra help becomes unfeasible because it requires too many resources and depletes the skill spots.

Prognosis: This is salvageable provided the rest of the line stays healthy, and the Jets can allocate resources to help Hunter. They did this last year. Eventually Hunter got his sea legs and needed less help. He was not Damien Woody, but the Jets won road games against Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and New England with him in the lineup. The Jets also controlled the point of attack in the regular season game against the Steelers, sporting a historic run defense. They also put up 34 points against an excellent defense.

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