The New York Jets took a gamble by replacing Wayne Hunter with Austin Howard at the starting right tackle position, but it was a gamble that more than paid off. Hunter, now with the St. Louis Rams, consistently struggled in pass protection and wasn’t much better as a run blocker either, and he is one of the worst tackles in the league. Howard, on the other hand, came in as a relative unknown but possessed upside at 25 and with a 6,7″, 333 pound frame.
The former Philadelphia Eagles tackle and Northern Iowa standout looked poor in Philly as a pass protector when given playing time, and that didn’t change in New York. However, he wasn’t nearly as horrendous as Hunter, and Howard is a much more disciplined player. More importantly, he used his frame and strength to his full advantage as a run blocker and quickly established himself as one of the better run blocking tackles in the NFL. With that in mind, it is easy to see why Howard is earning a reputation for himself as an above-average tackle in the league.
At 25, the Jets would love to keep Howard and are especially high on their new find. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, the Jets are deciding if they should secure Howard with a second or first-round tender. Normally, the decision would be obvious and the Jets would just slap the first-round tag on him to all but guarantee Howard sticking around. However, the Jets cap situation is so dire that even the small difference between the first-round tag ($2.86 million) and the second-round tag ($2.02 million) is significant.
Cimini writes that if the Jets place the second-round tag on Austin Howard, then the Baltimore Ravens could jump on Howard and give up their No. 62 pick on the young tackle. He writes that the Ravens are looking to replace veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie, and that Howard is better than anyone the Ravens could get at that slot.
While I agree with the point he is making with the latter statement, Howard isn’t the type of player the Ravens should target at the tackle position. They are better off going for a better pass blocker, unless if they are that high on Howard’s run blocking and feel he can transition well enough to LT and has enough upside there. Howard is one of the best run blocking tackles in the league, I’m not doubting that. However, he gave up ten sacks last season and still has a lot of work to do as far as pass blocking does, which is what the Ravens mostly need.
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