The embattled right tackle might have some competition, after all. Austin Howard, who started for the injured Hunter (back) in the first preseason game, played well and earned effusive praise from Rex Ryan. The coach stopped short of saying it's an open competition, but he strongly suggested that Howard will see playing time in the regular season.
Austin Howard (77) blocks for Tim Tebow on Friday.
Ryan was so impressed with Howard's performance that he singled him out in front of the team.
"Anybody who can play the way he played is trying to tell you something," Ryan told reporters. "You have to find a way to get him out there. I don't know about a competition. You earn your playing time in this league. You have to put him out there some time. I don't know how many reps, whatever. I told the team, 'Anybody who plays like that deserves to play.'"
It's no secret that the Jets are looking to upgrade at right tackle. They traded for former Panthers No. 1 pick Jeff Otah before camp, but the deal was voided a week later because he failed the physical. Meanwhile, Howard, a former undrafted player who had brief stops with the Eagles and Ravens, has been getting reps at right tackle the last few days as Hunter recovers from a lower-back injury.
Ryan's praise of Howard also could've been a message to Hunter. Funny, but Hunter returned to the practice field Sunday morning, although it wasn't immediately clear if he will practice fully.
Other notes from Ryan's daily news conference:
INJURY REPORT: Ryan mocked reports that said S Eric Smith (sprained knee) will miss the remainder of the preseason. He said Smith is day-to-day. He wasn't scheduled to practice Sunday. Neither was WR Santonio Holmes (rib) and WR Jeremy Kerley (hamstring). Ryan said he's hopeful that Kerley will return by the end of the week. ... Ryan said he has no interest in signing a veteran safety. ... WR Chaz Schilens injured an ankle in the game and wasn't slated to practice.
GOOD FELLAS: Ryan singled out a few players for their performances in the preseason opener, including LG Vladimir Ducasse and RB Joe McKnight. He also gushed about DE Quinton Coples, their No. 1 pick, taking the opportunity to tweak critics who said they made a bad pick.
"I know it's a bust, we should've taken this player or that player," he said. "But if you make five tackles, five hits on the quarterback, a sack, a forced fumble and a knocked-down pass on third down, I'd say he's doing OK. To say the least, he's the guy we thought he was. He could be a dominant player, there's no doubt."
GAME REVIEW: After reviewing a tape of the 17-6 loss to the Bengals, Ryan pointed out some positives: Nice pass rush from the base defense; good effort by the receivers on downfield blocking; a solid game by rookie WR Stephen Hill -- except for his third-down drop. Some negatives: Third-down defense must improve; poor techique by LB Bart Scott on the third-and-10 completion to RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis.