Friday, August 6, 2010

Give Slauson the Edge at Left Guard

When the Jets signed Alan Faneca to a record-breaking contract in 2008, some felt it was a ridiculous contract for someone on the downside of his career. That proved to be true, and the Jets cut bait with the veteran with two years left on his contract to try to get younger at the position. Faneca was a very good run blocker, but he graded out as one of the worst pass blocking guards in the NFL.

That leaves a battle between 2nd year man Matt Slauson and rookie Vladimir Ducasse for the job, with Slauson having the edge for now. Slauson is young in terms of NFL experience, but he's been in Bill Callahan's system for a long time, spending three years in college with the Jets' current offensive line coach at Nebraska. He also started four years in a Big 12 school, so he has experience playing against better competition than Ducasse.

“With Vladimir’s (inexperienced) background we never expected him to be ahead of anyone right now,’’ Ryan said. “What we’re looking for fro, Vlad is I want to see him finishing with a certain mentality and attitude. Just finish guys. Slauson has that and that’s why I’d put Slauson ahead of Vlad. He’s a tough and nasty guy. I’d like to see that (from Ducasse) sooner than later.’’

The Jets would love for the 2nd round pick Ducasse to take the job, but he's a bit on the raw side having only learned football a few years ago and playing at a smaller school in Massachussets. He has the size, strength, and athleticism to be a great guard or tackle in the NFL, but he needs experience and coaching to refine his rough edges. Give Callahan a year or two with him, and he could be one of the better linemen in the league.

Slauson lacks that upside, but Kris Jenkins gave him a stamp of approval, saying that Slauson is "actually making me better." And if Callahan didn't think he could play, he wouldn't have had the Jets draft him in the 6th round last year. He'll probably never be a star, but he can be a rugged player who knows his assignments. And maybe he can surprise enough to show he can be the long-term answer at left guard. In that case, Ducasse could shift to right tackle to eventually replace Damien Woody.

However, it's still early in camp. Remember, Kellen Clemens was right there with Mark Sanchez at this point. How both guards play in game action will eventually determine who plays and who doesn't. Monday, August 16, against the Giants, will be the Jets' first preseason game, and by the third preseason game, chances are the Jets will know who their man is.

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