Former Giants general manager George Young was guided by something called the World Theory when he made picks in the NFL Draft. The theory suggests there are very few really athletic guys who are really big in the world. When presented with a chance to grab one, a football team is well advised to do so. I am not sure Mike Tannenbaum religiously espouses this theory, but Vladimir Ducasse is a guy who comes to mind when somebody brings it up. There are not many 6'5" 325 pounders who are as athletic as he is.
Ducasse did not make an impact as a rookie. Looking back, expecting him to do so might have been a bit ambitious. There were a lot of hurdles. Most college players face steep adjustments as rookies to the vastly faster and better athletes they face as professionals. With Ducasse, the learning curve was more pronounced since he played at UMass and faced lower level competition than others. There is also the matter of learning a new playbook and responsibilities which is likely to be more complicated than anything a rookie has seen before. Again, Ducasse faced a bigger challenge. He has not played football since childhood. He only picked up the game his junior year in high school so his technique was still very unrefined due to less repetitions over his life span relative to other players. With less football experience, he also did not have as good of a feel for the game and understand instinctively which opponent he should be blocking in a given situation.
The Jets might have the best offensive line teacher in the game in Bill Callahan. He is capable of drilling in technique, and teaching a guy where he should be on a given play. A year at the pro level in practice should make Ducasse more comfortable with the opposition. The question is how big of a leap he can make. He is athletic enough to be good protecting the edge as a tackle. He is big and strong enough to be a mauler in the run game. Can he put it all together?
He faces a challenge to win the starting tackle job. Wayne Hunter is essentially the incumbent and seems to have the support of the coaching staff. Hunter did a solid job filling in for Damien Woody. The Jets have not dominated up front since 2008 because they had a bunch of solid guys, though. It is because they have had a collection of the best players at their respective positions playing the offensive line spots. Hunter probably will not reach that level. Ducasse has a chance to. Continuing the absurdly high level of play up front the team has enjoyed may require Ducasse to make a big leap and win the spot. Brandon Moore's status on the PUP list also raises questions about where he will be early in the year. Ducasse might have to start regardless.
How much has he improved?