Austin is the right tackle -- unless ...

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
1:04
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In his first pubic remarks since the Wayne Hunter-Jason Smith trade, Rex Ryan didn't do much remarking. He declined to comment Tuesday on the right-tackle swap until the trade with the Rams becomes official at 4 p.m. Interestingly, he also stopped short of committing to Austin Howard as the opening-day right tackle.

Ryan praised Howard for playing well in the first and third preseason games, but he left himself some wiggle room with regard to his plans for opening day. He said he didn't want to paint himself into a corner, in the event that something changes.

Pressed, Ryan finally said, "I feel good about Austin ... Unless there's something I'm not seeing out there, I've been pleased with (him), without question. I would assume he would be our starting tackle."

The trade isn't official until both players pass their physicals. Smith is due to make $4 million, guaranteed, and it's hard to imagine the Jets taking on that much salary unless they believe there's a good chance he will be starting at some point.

INJURY REPORT: Good news for the Jets. TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), LB David Harris (ankle), S Yeremiah Bell (knee), NT Sione Pouha (back), WR Chaz Schilens (ankle) and TE Jeff Cumberland (concussion) are expected to play in the season opener, according to Ryan.

Ryan said his "biggest concern" is backup S Eric Smith. He sprained an MCL and hurt his hip in the first preseason game. The knee has healed, but the hip still is causing discomfort.

"He's fighting through it," Ryan said. "He might be our biggest question mark right now."

Smith is involved in sub packages on defense and he's also a valuable special-teams performer. If he can't play, they'd probably use rookie Josh Bush as the No. 3 safety.

WR Santonio Holmes (ribs) and WR Jeremy Kerley (ribs) suffered no setbacks against the Panthers, according to Ryan, also will be ready to roll for the opener.

COPLES IS COOL: Two days after calling out rookie DE Quinton Coples for expressing a "woe-is-me" attitude against the Panthers, Ryan reversed field and gushed about his No. 1 pick. Ryan said he has no concerns about Coples' attitude.

"No, absolutely not," he said. "I gave a very honest deal (after the game). I saw him get that puppy-dog look, but the puppy dog barks a lot. He's got some bite to him. The guy's a tremendous player, a tremendous athlete."

Coples, who started Sunday night, apparently was upset when informed that he had to stay in the game to play with the backups. He'll get plenty of action Thursday night in the preseason finale.

TIGHT-END ISSUES: Even though Keller and Cumberland will be healthy for the opener, the Jets could use some additional depth at tight end. Remember, they lost Josh Baker to a season-ending knee injury. Ryan acknowledged they're looking for possible replacements.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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