The media-proclaimed “Summer of Vlad” has turned into the “Fall of Bad” as the Jets appear set to replace left guard Vlad Ducasse with rookie Brian Winters.
After what was a strong training camp and preseason, the Jets appear ready to abandon Ducasse as their starting left guard, perhaps making him the scapegoat for the offense's struggles and rookie quarterback Geno Smith's high sack rate. He will be replaced by rookie Brian Winters, a third-round pick out of Kent State.
A team source tells Metro that Winters and Ducasse have had “an even split of snaps with the first team offense” in practice this week. As of now, the source said, the Jets plan to give Winters his first NFL start Monday night against the Falcons.
“It felt good to work with those guys [the starters]. I just have to continue to work hard and then it's out of my hands,” Winters said. “I've been thrown in with the ones every once in awhile from camp on and the past couple weeks. It is awesome to get back into the groove of things and be thrown in with them, figuring it out and working with them.”
Winters looked good in rookie minicamp and again during offseason workouts and was relatively solid during preseason with the second-team offense. But his biggest advantage might simply be that the name Ducasse is not on the back of his jersey.
Considered by many fans and some in the media as a bust, Ducasse has bounced around between both guard positions, right tackle and even blocking tight end in what is now his fourth year with the Jets. It might be unfair to criticize him for the Jets' high number of sacks, especially given the rookie quarterback's tendency to hold onto the ball too long.
The signs pointing toward Winters starting this week extend beyond the football field. In positional meetings, offensive line coach Mike Devlin has been active in getting his rookie left guard involved in classroom work and film study.
“Without a doubt [I'm getting more involved],” Winters said. “Saying my name, asking me 'How is this working Winters?' Things like that. Obviously I'm more alert to it [and] continuing to learn and paying more attention and whatnot.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.