Austin Howard described what his pregame routine might sound before he takes those first reps under the Jets’ right tackle spotlight against Mario Williams and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon.
“You get the music going and you start focusing on specific plays, different scenarios that may happen throughout the game,” said Howard, the 6’7″, 333-pound third-year man who’s been a Jets starter for all of three preseason games. “You just really get focused and zoned in on what you’ve got to do.”
What music might be on the Howard iPod? “I like hip-hop, sometimes I like slow music,” he said. “I like a wide variety. I couldn’t tell you that I have a favorite artist. I even like the old school artists, like Sam Cooke.”
Now Sam Cooke is someone from my generation. But what does that tell us about how Howard will fare under the blare of the opening-day playlist against the Bills’ vaunted rebuilt D-line? By about 4:15 Sunday afternoon, will it be a “Wonderful World” (No. 2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1960) for him or will he have found himself on a “Lonely Island” (No. 10, 1958)?
We’ve seen any number of Jets offensive linemen come and go over the years. Some hold up quite well and settle in for long careers in green and white; others impersonate the turnstiles at the MetLife Stadium gates.
We’ll know soon enough how things will go for Howard, but from this week’s practice and his time before the reporters in the locker room, he seems to be warming to the task at hand, not just on Sunday but for a longer haul. His patter is generally on the safe side, but his jaw his set, his stare is steady, and he even has allowed a smile to flash across his serious demeanor the past three days.
He’s very much in the O-line group mindset, deflecting questions of Super Mario into how the Jets’ line will show up against Williams and Mark Anderson at the ends and Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus at the tackles.
“As a unit, we’ve been preparing our butts off. Our coaches have made sure we’re prepared in the classroom, on the field, run-blocking schemes, pass-blocking schemes. They’ve made sure to prepare us in every aspect of the game, so we’re really excited and really looking forward to this weekend.”
But how about when it’s M.Williams at left end vs. Howard at right tackle, no TE help, no backs chipping out of the backfield, mano a mano?
One means of comparison for Howard and for Jets fans is how he did against Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware in his only prior regular-season start, at left tackle in the final game of the 2010 season for the Eagles, who had locked up the NFC East title and were locked in at the No. 3 seed. How does he rate Ware vs. Williams?
“They both have good motors, a lot of different moves, a lot of things you have to prepare for,” he said. “You have to study them very intently, take every opportunity you can to learn their different moves.”
And how did he fare vs. Ware?
“I gave up a couple of sacks to DeMarcus,” he said, unflinchingly. “That was a game I learned from and I’ll always remember.”
Whether he’ll have good memories or bad from Sunday’s first RS start as a Jet remains to be seen. Howard is tipping his hand only a little as to what he thinks is ahead.
“Honestly, I have no expectations. I know I have to go out there and be prepared for anything and everything,” he said. “People are going to watch who they’re going to watch. My thing is I expect more out of myself than anybody else expects out of me.”
And if it all works out for the O-line, the offense and the Jets in general, Howard and friends will be “Having a Party” (No. 4, 1962) come Sunday night.
The Jets’ injury list has 16 players on it, with only two listed as out for the Bills: S Eric Smith (hip/knee) and T Dennis Landolt (knee).
Ryan adds Sione Po‘uha to his “Out” list, saying the NT “won’t play,” although Big Bo is listed as questionable on today’s report.
Rex said “everyone else should be up, ready to go.” That includes TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and DT Mike DeVito (calf), both of whom were limited in today’s team drills and are listed as questionable. But Keller was upbeat Thursday about his availability, and DeVito today said several times, “The calf’s 100 percent.”
G Brandon Moore (hip) and LB Bryan Thomas (ankle) were limited today but are probable, and nine players were full-go at practice and are probable, including S LaRon Landry (heel, DNP on Thursday) and WRs Santonio Holmes (ribs), Chaz Schilens (ankle) and Stephen Hill (calf).
Buffalo’s short list had two interesting groin developments today: Brad Smith was a full participant in team drills and is probable, while No. 1 WR Stevie Johnson was limited and is questionable.
Tags: Austin Howard, Buffalo Bills, DeMarcus Ware, Dustin Keller, Mario Williams, Mike DeVito, Sione Pouha
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