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Jets Finally Pull the Plug on Wayne Hunter

Austin Howard will start at right tackle on Sunday

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Hunter Games have come to an end.

    Jets coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum spent Thursday morning telling WFAN listeners that Wayne Hunter was still a man they believed in.

    It didn't take long for them to move in the exact opposite direction. Ryan told reporters at his Thursday press conference that Hunter has been benched and Austin Howard will get the start at right tackle against the Panthers on Sunday night.

    The move seems surprising since the Jets have spent the entire offseason saying that they thought the world of Hunter and that there wasn't any interest in a right tackle who didn't allow 11 sacks while being flagged for 11 penalties last season.

    It isn't the least bit surprising, though. The Jets have specialized in saying one thing and doing another for so long that you'd expect to be served fish at their next pancake breakfast.

    Ryan wouldn't commit to Howard beyond the game against the Panthers, but he would have to literally fall to pieces in the face of the Panthers rush for the Jets to turn back to Hunter at this point in time. You can't say that you fully support someone, replace him with a player who has played four games in the NFL and then turn back to Hunter without looking like the most foolish group of people ever put in charge of making decisions.

    You're free to already think that about people who choose to turn bad players into Pro Bowlers via words instead of actually trying to find Pro Bowlers to play the position. Better late than never, we suppose, but headaches will certainly ensue if Howard struggles this season and people try to figure out why the Jets waited so long to look for other options.

    Howard's the only one now, although the Jets will likely be combing the trade market for others. Hopefully, they won't be looking for a replay of the Jeff Otah deal since the need really calls for a player physically able to play football.

    How much will this wind up fixing for the Jets offense? We're not sure it will do all that much, frankly, and we're mostly worried about Jets offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.

    DeGuglielmo said this offseason that someone would have to shoot him dead in order for Hunter to lose his starting job, so it might be worth checking his office for signs of life. We'll find out if the Jets offense has any come Saturday.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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