- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Vladimir Ducasse can't escape the 2010 NFL draft.
As he evaluated himself this offseason and went over his goals for this season, the 2010 second-round pick couldn't help but acknowledge the expectations that come with being selected 61st overall.
"I was drafted here for a reason, they believe in me," Ducasse said Wednesday. "I have to bring the confidence in myself up to the best of my ability."
It's been a long and often rough journey for Ducasse to his current role as the starting left guard, but he's performing well in his first chance at extended playing time. Jets head coach Rex Ryan said he believes the proverbial light has finally gone on for the 25-year-old.
"Obviously, a second-round pick, you want the light to come on sooner than later, but we knew with his limited football background, it would take some time," Ryan said. "Obviously, he's done a really good job."
Ducasse had become the poster child for the previous regime's failures in the draft: a high draft choice who barely got on the field and hadn't contributed much. He entered this season fighting for an expanded role with the team after just one career start in his first three years.
The guard entered this summer in a battle with rookie Brian Winters for the starting left guard spot, but an ankle injury to Winters derailed the competition and gave Ducasse the upper edge. Ducasse has started each of the first two games, and has played in every offensive snap thus far. While Winters may be the future, Ducasse isn't going down without a fight.
Ryan acknowledged that the Jets haven't made life easy on Ducasse by making him learn both guard and tackle positions in the four years he's been on the team.
"We put him at guard and I'm like 'he's earned that spot,'" Ryan said. "And that's why he's in there."
Thursday, Ducasse faced a tough challenge in New England's premier defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork, and held his own. Ryan complimented Ducasse for his performance, saying he was physical. Ducasse credited his teammates for collectively doing a stout job against Wilfork.
"I'm looking at it like it was a group effort," Ducasse said. "It wasn't an individual effort. Communication was good. Everybody was on the same page, so that's why we accomplished what we accomplished Thursday night, even though we lost the game. We took another step."