Howard has tall task ahead in Williams

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
6:03
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan can only think of one tougher assignment for Austin Howard than having to face new Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams in the Jets' season opener on Sunday.

"Probably the only thing worse would be the (DeMarcus) Ware kid," Ryan said Wednesday. "That probably would be the only bigger challenge."

[+] EnlargeMario Williams
AP Photo/Scott BoehmMario Williams stands 6-foot-6, weighs 292 pounds and has been selected to two Pro Bowls.
Howard, the right tackle who will be making just his second career start and his first with the Jets, will likely see plenty of Williams when the AFC East foes clash Sunday. Howard was recently anointed the team's starting right tackle in place of the traded Wayne Hunter, and will have no time to ease into his new role.

"We respect their defense a lot, but we're very confident as an offensive line," Howard said. "We're all looking forward to this game and just want to get out there and play our best and prepare how we know to prepare and just get it going."

Williams, who spent six seasons in Houston, made life tougher for all AFC East tackles when he brought his 53 career sacks to Buffalo this offseason after signing a six-year deal. While Williams didn't say on a conference call if he'd be lining up more at right defensive end or on the left against the Jets, Ryan has no doubt he'll see Williams lined up against Howard.

While battles between tackles and defensive ends can be billed as one-on-one showdowns, Howard isn't looking at it that way. He wants to be solid in his entire game, from his run blocking to his pass protecting, and be part of a cohesive unit. He described Williams as a quick player with long arms, the attributes of a great pass rusher.

"As a unit we just want to play together, make sure we protect the passer and make some big holes for the runners," Howard said. "That's our goals and that's what we're going to try to do."

As he prepares to face Williams, Howard will use lessons he learned from facing Ware in his first career start in 2010, for Philadelphia. Howard is only in his third season and has played in just four games, so any experience he has is vital for his preparation.

"I learned a lot from that game in terms of sets, preparing, make sure I'm ready for the game and in terms of pass-blocking techniques," said the 25-year-old. "You learn every game you get a chance to get out there."

The Jets can help Howard out Sunday with chip blocks and double teams, but as Ryan recognized, they can't help him out on every play. He's going to have to win the individual battles. His quarterback seems confident his right tackle will keep him upright.

"We're expecting Austin to play well against someone who is very talented," Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "A guy like Mario Williams, he's a game-changing type player. It's important to block him up and get rid of the football."

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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