Welcome back to the Spotlight. Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week. Today's player in the spotlight is Breno Giacomini.
Breno Giacomini is a 30 year old, 6' 7", 304 pound right offensive tackle out of Louisville. Breno played his first two college years as a 240+ pound tight end, but he eventually grew so massive that Louisville switched him to the offensive line for his final two years of college football. Giacomini was originally drafted in the 5th round, 150th overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. Breno was active for one game for the 2008 Packers, then spent the 2009 season on Green Bay's practice squad. The Seattle Seahawks signed Giacomini off of the Packers' practice squad in September 2010, but Breno did not play in another NFL game until 2011, when he worked his way up to starting right tackle for the Seahawks. After three seasons with Seattle, the Seahawks did not re-sign Giacomini when his contract expired in early 2014, and he became an unrestricted free agent. Jets' GM John Idzik signed him as a free agent to take over the right tackle spot vacated in 2014 by fellow free agent right tackle Austin Howard. With a four year, $18 million contract, tenth highest right tackle contract in the NFL in terms of total value, Giacomini was one of the few free agent signings of the Idzik era that were for anything over minimal amounts. Giacomini has done an adequate job holding down the right tackle position since he came to New York. His play has not in any way been at a star level, but he hasn't really been bad either. He has mostly been what was expected -- a competent hold-the-fort type guy who will do until a better replacement is found. Giacomini has started every game since being acquired by the Jets.
This afternoon Breno faces the challenge of his career. Lined up opposite him for most of the afternoon will be the most dominant defensive player in the NFL: J.J. Watt. Watt, at 6' 6" and 290 pounds, is a sneaky fast and deceptively athletic defensive lineman. He has been an unstoppable force in his brief NFL career. First Team All Pro in 2012, 2013 and 2014, Watt has amassed an incredible 61 sacks in the last 3.5 years of his career. He dominates offensive linemen better than Breno on a regular basis. Giacomini will be in the fight of his life to keep Watt from wrecking the game for the Jets.
Of course, Breno will have some help. Nobody can be expected to stand toe to toe with J.J. Watt all alone and come out on top. It is an impossible matchup. So Breno no doubt will get help keeping Watt out of the Jets' backfield. He'll get help from running backs. He'll get help from tight ends. He'll get help from guards. But in the end, the primary responsibility for keeping Watt in check rests with Breno Giacomini, journeyman offensive lineman.
Breno will have one other vital bit of help this afternoon, in the person of one Ryan Fitzpatrick. No matter how good a defensive pass rusher is, the best and most reliable way to neutralize him is for the quarterback to consistently get the ball out quickly. If the ball is coming out in about 2 seconds on a regular basis, no pass rusher in the NFL can get to the quarterback unless he goes completely unblocked. Fortunately for Breno and the Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick's greatest asset as a quarterback is he consistently gets the ball out quickly, making him very difficult to sack. This above all other help will go the longest way to helping Breno in his thankless task this afternoon.
The game between the Texans and the Jets looks to be a defensive struggle. The Texans have held their last two opponents to six points each. The Jets have one of the better defenses in the league and face a limited backup quarterback who has barely played the last three seasons. With points likely to be at a premium, defensive players have the opportunity to make the difference, and there is no bigger difference maker on defense than J.J. Watt.
For Breno Giacomini, this is the challenge of a lifetime. If ever there was a time for him to shine, today's game is it. If Breno can contain Watt at least enough so that Watt doesn't make any game changing plays, Breno will have earned his money in a big way and the Jets are likely to prevail in this contest. If on the other hand Watt completely destroys Breno as he has so often done to so many other right tackles, it may be a long day for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Gang Green, and we may see the team's playoff hopes take a significant hit. Either way, Breno should prove to be a pivotal player in this game. This is Breno Giacomini's time in the spotlight. He doesn't need to dominate Watt, just contain the damage. If Giacomini does that, he will have come through in a big way in his time in the spotlight. Let's hope Breno shines brightly this afternoon against an absolute beast of an opponent.