Candidates: Stephen Peterman, Brian Winters
Background: The Jets needed a pair of new starting guards after the two incumbents, Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore, hit free agency. They moved quickly to sign Willie Colon to fill one spot. Then the second night of the NFL Draft, the team made a curious decision by signing free agent Stephen Peterman from the Lions. Peterman was one of the least effective guards in the league in 2012, particularly as a pass blocker where he allowed an astronomical for his position 46 hurries, hits, and sacks. For reference, Wayne Hunter allowed 54 in 2011. Hunter also had to protect the edge and play one on one against athletic sack artists since he was a tackle. Peterman had no such worries as he was protected inside and still allowed 85% as many rushers to get to his quarterback. The Peterman signing was made even more curious by the Jets drafting three guard prospects in the twenty-four hours immediately after signing Peterman. Signing somebody bad is puzzling. Signing somebody bad when you're about to draft multiple players at the same position is just weird. Nobody wanted to sign Peterman all offseason. Was there suddenly such demand for him that they couldn't have waited another day. Anyway, the highest selection from this group, Brian Winters, the team's third round pick, figures to have the best shot at beating out Peterman for the starting job.
Handicapping the battle: Winters figures to have a good chance to win the battle. While Rex Ryan has not been willing to bench established starters for rookies, he has shown an inclination to give a rookie the nod when there is an open position battle and no incumbent starter (Mark Sanchez, Kyle Wilson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Stephen Hill).
JB's optimal use: Barring a late re-signing of Moore to play the position, I think it is difficult to envision a path to a surprisingly successful season that does not involve the Jets' top four Draft picks all making significant contributions as rookies. Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson need to step up on a defense that has a lot of holes. Geno Smith needs to win the starting job and play efficient football. The Jets also need to protect the rookie quarterback with a strong run game. That means having an offensive line that can blow people off the ball and open big holes for the backs. There can be no weak links. Jets fans saw the damage one weak link could do in 2007 with Adrien Clark and again in 2011 with Wayne Hunter. Peterman probably would be that weak link. It is unclear how effective Winters will be right out of the gate, but the Jets need to hope he is ready to be a contributor as a rookie. He has to win the job, play quality ball at guard for this team, and keep Peterman on the bench.