Truth be told, Vlad Ducasse wasn’t supposed to be here.
Now entering his fourth year in the league, Ducasse will make his first start in the NFL on Sunday, a significant step forward for the former second-round pick who was considered by many to be expendable this offseason. Ducasse has never settled in at any spot along the offensive line as the Jets played musical chairs with his development. He was brought in originally as a right tackle but switched to right guard, left guard last preseason and eventually as a jumbo tight end.
He will be the Jets’ starting left guard on Sunday following a preseason where it was assumed he wouldn’t make the roster.
“It’s God. I’ve been praying and he answered my prayers. People will be people, that won’t bother me at all — what they say. I looked at it that I had to put it together,” Ducasse told Metro. “I just took another step and here I am, getting ready for Sunday — doing my film study, focusing out there and working with the ones. Just working with the ones.”
He paused for a moment and clasped his hands, shaking his head.
“Just working with the ones.”
Those are words Ducasse maybe thought he’d never utter and Jets fans who had given up on the No. 61 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft as a bust never foresaw as becoming reality. His NFL career has been lukewarm to say the least. For a second-round pick who came in with high expectations, he would be slotted in as a disappointment.
The Jets brought in veteran Stephen Peterman this season and drafted Brian Winters in the fourth round, ostensibly to replace the departed Matt Slauson at left guard. Peterman started off well in offseason workouts but fizzled in training camp. Winters has shown potential but he isn’t quite there yet. Ducasse was given a shot during training camp at left guard and showed well with the second team. He got more shots in preseason games and eventually with the first team.
He’s started the last two preseason games and fit right into a revamped offensive line that looks improved from a season ago.
Last year he was put into a competition at left guard with Slauson, perhaps a fabricated one against the solid and steady veteran, but it is paying dividends now. Ducasse has always been athletic and moved well, but he came to the Jets from UMass as raw and unrefined. Each offseason was supposed to be his next big step and each preseason he always stumbled when it came time to prove himself.
But now he will have that chance.
“I worked really hard this offseason, really hard on everything. My footwork, my technique, my hands — you name it and I did it,” Ducasse said. “I’m comfortable now; I’ve got an understanding now. Last year, I got some work at left guard and that helped. I did other things along the line. It was all preparation for me.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.