The free agent pickings for an established starting tackle to potentially replace Wayne Hunter are slim. The Jets could potentially turn their attention to a young backup with starting ability. One such option is Cincinnati free agent to be Anthony Collins. Collins was a fourth round pick out of Kansas by the Bengals in 2008. The 26 year old has been blocked from starting by Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith this year. When he has been called upon, he has received some high marks from Bengals fans.
Collins has been an incredible pass blocker when called upon. In his four year career, he has missed a block allowing either pressure, a hit or, a sack on an elite level 4.1% of pass blocking plays. Since his rookie year where he had a few rough games, that becomes an astounding 2.2%. This year on 89 pass blocking plays, he allowed only a single pressure.
Collins is less successful as a run blocker, where scouting reports indicate he struggles to get a push. An examination of the numbers bears this out. In the past two seasons, he has played every snap in four games. This year the Bengals averaged 7.2 yards per carry against the Texans running to the right side, an excellent number against a fantastic defense. There is a catch, though. Most of the production came on one huge run over 40 yards. Against the Rams, the Bengals averaged 4.1 yards running right, but the Rams allowed 4.8 per carry this year so that is below the normal output. Last year the Bengals averaged 2.0 against San Diego and 3.3 against Baltimore running right with Collins in the lineup.
Collins is an interesting case. He would be a clear upgrade over Wayne Hunter. His pass blocking skills would make him a no brainer for a team running an offense based on a passing attack. For a team presumably moving to a power run based offense, it becomes less clear Collins is the right guy. He does have the kind of frame at 6'5" and 317 pounds to potentially develop into a punishing run blocker at tackle with the right coaching. Cases like this seem to be Tony Sparano's specialty. Since he was a backup, he probably is not going to get big money. He has shown starter potential, though.
This is not a case like Wayne Hunter of a guy being a career backup. Collins is younger and was blocked by some good players. Hunter had a lot of ups and downs when he was pressed into duty in 2010 like brutal performances against Mario Williams and Cameron Wake. Collins has been rock solid as a pass blocker for three years, including stonewalling James Harrison. When looking at the other options relative to cost, I think making an aggressive push for Collins would be the right play for the Jets even if he is only given the chance to compete for the starting job. What do you think?