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Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Three things we learned on Day 21

By Rich Cimini

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from Wednesday, the last public practice here:

1. Nose tackle could be an issue. Sione Po'uha claimed he's "100 percent" confident his ailing back won't hamper him during the season, but that might be wishful thinking. He's 33 years old and he plays the most physically demanding position on the field. The coaches could reduce Po'uha's playing time to save wear and tear, but here's the problem: His backup, Kenrick Ellis, isn't ready for a significant role. There is one silver lining: The nose tackle won't have to play a lot in the season opener. The Jets will be in nickel and dime all day because of the Bills' spread formations.

Austin Howard
Austin Howard
2. Get ready, tight ends. Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland and Josh Baker made several catches in team drills, perhaps a harbinger of what the offense might look like early in the season. With all the injuries at wide receiver, coordinator Tony Sparano might have to incorporate more tight-end packages into his early game plans. All three have the ability to make plays in the passing game.

3. The sixth offensive lineman. Mark this down: RT Austin Howard will have a role on offense. He won't unseat RT Wayne Hunter, at least not soon, but he'll be involved in the "Jumbo" package as an extra blocker/tight end. That could do wonders for the running game, which didn't have a good "Jumbo" last season. Howard is fairly nimble for a 330-pound man, so he can be used in motion. Line coach Dave DeGuglielmo called Howard "a very rare talent" in terms of pure power at the point of attack.