Woody's injury presents problems for Jets

January, 14, 2011
1/14/11
10:12
AM ET
How much will the loss of right tackle Damien Woody impact the New York Jets?

Experience is the most obvious subtraction. Woody just finished his 12th NFL season. He has two Super Bowl rings.

His replacement, seventh-year pro Wayne Hunter, had two career starts before December.

[+] EnlargeWayne Hunter
AP Photo/David DrapkinWith Wayne Hunter stepping into the starting lineup, the Jets' depth on the O-line is getting thin.
Hunter started the Jets' final three games while Woody rested a right knee injury for the playoffs. Woody started Saturday's first-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but he couldn't finish because of an Achilles injury that required surgery this week.

But Woody's season-ending injury might not be as troubling as the next one that befalls their offensive line.

I reached out to ESPN contributor and former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker for his thoughts on how problematic Woody's absence will be for the Jets in Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

"In and of itself, Wayne Hunter probably will do fine," said Tucker, who played for the Patriots and Buffalo Bills during his seven-year career. "But my biggest concern is their depth."

The Jets' depth chart doesn't list anybody at tackle aside from Woody and Hunter. Backup guard Robert Turner played right tackle at New Mexico. Rookie backup guard Vladimir Ducasse was a tackle at Boston College, but he has been a disappointment at guard.

"What if somebody else gets hurt?" Tucker said. "Nobody thinks about that, but let me tell you, if Wayne Hunter goes down or [left tackle] D'Brickashaw Ferguson goes down in the first or second quarter, then that becomes a real issue and a real problem."

Hunter is a capable lineman. Jets head coach Rex Ryan called him "the best backup tackle in the league," a remark Tucker deemed "hyperbole on Rex's part." But Tucker did rate Hunter among the NFL's top 10 swing tackles.

"From a natural ability standpoint Wayne Hunter is off the charts," Tucker said.

Hunter has seen a lot of action in the Jets' jumbo and goal-line packages, frequently reporting as an eligible receiver because he's lined up on the outside of another tackle.

Tucker liked what he saw from Hunter against some solid defenses. Hunter started against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last month.

But expect the Patriots to dial up some special plays to see if they can exploit Hunter's inexperience and get to quarterback Mark Sanchez. Hunter also might find himself lined up against Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who migrates along the line.

"The Patriots may try to test his football acumen, his football intelligence," Tucker said. "I would imagine Bill Belichick will test his faculties pretty early. There are things you can do, whether it's a stunt or a blitz, to see how comfortable he is picking up the right guy.

"Ninety-five percent of the time he'll be blocking either the defensive end or outside linebacker, although most teams with their pass protections tend to slide the protection to the left to protect the backside of the quarterback. Usually, the other team's best pass-rusher is on that side. So Wayne Hunter will have that guy one-on-one more often than the left tackle will. He'll be isolated."

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