New York Jets: Will Benching Wayne Hunter Remedy Offensive Woes?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IAugust 23, 2012

Jan 23, 2011; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Jets offensive tackle Wayne Hunter (78) during the 2011 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Steelers defeated the Jets 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter was one of the biggest weaknesses on the Jets' roster, but benching him doesn't bring the promise of any drastic improvement for the Jets offense.

Quite frankly, the Jets haven't done enough to help quarterback Mark Sanchez at plenty of positions besides right tackle—it just so happens right tackle is the one where their lack of vision is the most egregious.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum may pay the price for his lack of vision, but his price won't be lightning bolts surging through his body.

Hunter was often caught without a leg to stand on in pass protection. After the Jets pursued a trade for Panthers tackle Jeff Otah (who literally doesn't have a leg to stand on, with two bad wheels), it was clear Hunter's role as the starting right tackle didn't have a leg to stand on, either.

As it turned out, Jets head coach Rex Ryan and the front office as a whole committed to Hunter time and time again as the starting right tackle, but like his technique, his role as the starter eventually caved under pressure.

Rex slowly caved to the calls for Hunter's job, as well, and finally gave in on Thursday. Per CBS New York:

"I know what I said about Wayne being the starting tackle this week," Ryan told reporters during his Thursday news conference. "The more I went back and looked at where we are at as a football team and getting feedback from coaches and knowing the history of Wayne, the success that Wayne had as a sixth man, I've decided that's the way we're going to go."

This is actually a good thing for Hunter. He would have been under a microscope all season long as the starting right tackle, but instead, he gets to come in off the bench as a sixth offensive lineman and a "jumbo" tight end, according to Rex.

Hunter was solid but unspectacular in that role in 2009 and 2010, grading out just below average as a run-blocker both years, according to Pro Football Focus. His quick feet and athleticism were valuable tools for helping him get out in space and putting him in as the extra lineman avoided leaving him on an island, where he would be charged with blocking some solid pass-rushers.

But what's good for the goose isn't always good for the gander. Such is the case with Hunter being benched. 

At present, right tackle Austin Howard is expected to start in Hunter's stead. Sometimes, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know, but how much worse could Howard be than Hunter? When the Jets know, we'll know.

Howard has started one career game, in 2010, and his time on the practice field is hardly enough to glean any impressions on his ability to transition to the starting role.

It also doesn't help that it wasn't Howard who won the role, but rather Hunter who lost it. Granted, Howard took all the first-team reps at Jets practice the day Hunter's benching was announced, but if the Jets felt Howard could step in and be an upgrade over Hunter, they probably would have gone about announcing it differently than to say that Hunter had been demoted.

Furthermore, Rex Ryan would not commit to Howard as the starter, but for now, it appears it will stay that way.

"We don't know what's going to be cut from other teams," Ryan said (via "I don't believe you're going to find somebody right now who can be a starting right tackle ahead of who we have now."

The Jets could pursue a trade, and reports indicate that to be the case, but will they find anyone who offers a huge upgrade over either Hunter or Howard? It seems that question has no answer at this point.

We'll just have to wait and see (though, from this perspective, chances are slim). 

It's hard to imagine the Jets offense making dramatic improvements, regardless of the right tackle. Out of fairness to Howard, he couldn't be much worse than Hunter was, but it's harder to make a scapegoat of a third-year undrafted free agent with one NFL start than it is an eight-year veteran.

Perhaps someone else will become the scapegoat. First-year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano's vanilla style of offense and questionable play-calling were the object of scrutiny in Miami, and if things remain the same in New York, he could be the catalyst for controversy.

Sanchez has already become a scapegoat in some circles, and perhaps the consensus will shift from "Sanchez needs more time in the pocket" to "Sanchez needs to get the ball out quicker."

But between the comments made by cornerback Darrelle Revis as well as the grim situation on offense and at right tackle, Mike Tannenbaum's seat is getting hotter every day.

From head-scratching personnel decisions to needlessly labeling players as starters, if you're looking for a scapegoat, Tannenbaum's a pretty easy target.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East Blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates.