Wayne Hunter: Stay or Go? Part 2: Pinch Hitting Duty

FOXBORO MA - JANUARY 16: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets and Wayne Hunter #78 celebrate on their way to defeating the New England Patriots 28 to 21 victory over the New England Patriots during their 2011 AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16 2011 in Foxboro Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

A series of injuries to Damien Woody got Wayne Hunter first team work for the first time in his career during the 2010 campaign. Hunter had gotten experience on the field in 2009 and earlier in 2010 at tight end in jumbo sets, where he played a small role in the Jets establishing themselves as a top running team. Starting at right tackle was completely different, though.

His first work was not very good. Subbing for an injured Woody against Houston, Mario Williams really handled him. Williams had 2 sacks, and Hunter looked overmatched. The same thing happened a few weeks later as Hunter again came on in place of Woody against the Dolphins. Hunter could not handle Cameron Wake, who disrupted things all day, particularly on the final drive.

Hunter entered the starting lineup after that point, and he seemed to get more comfortable as he got more playing time and a chance to get a better feel. He got a lot of help against Lamarr Woodley Week 15 but held Woodley at bay. His best game came a week later against the Bears. He handled Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije with little help. The field was not in great condition that day, but Peppers gave the Jets credit after the game. It is worth noting the Bears took special measure that day to wear the right cleats after a recent game against the Patriots in Solider Field saw them slipping all over the place. The only guys slipping on that day were in green and white.

Just as impressive was Hunter coming into the game cold against the Colts on the final drive of the Playoff game. Robert Mathis was not able to get to Mark Sanchez working against a guy who had sat for 3 hours.

Hunter was not perfect. The Houston and Miami games were bad. He is still something of a work in progress as a run blocker. The Jets ran it under 2 yards per play in the Playoffs going to the right when Hunter was starting and much more successful going left. While Hunter was generally good against the pass rush, he was beaten by edge rushers in the Playoffs also. He was merely good then opposed to Woody's excellent during the regular season. Hunter did prove himself to be a valuable reserve, though. Average to slightly above average is good play to get from a backup, and it is what Hunter gave the Jets. With more experience, he might get better.

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