Vladimir Ducasse lunges down the field kettle bells in hand, dripping and heaving underneath a black T-shirt drenched in sweat and clinging to his enormous form. He throws down the weights and with no break, he runs to the next station where he pumps out bicep curls, one at a time in perfect rhythm. Curls completed, he’s off for a set of pull-ups, pausing after a couple efforts to regroup, his body aching each time he takes his 330-pound body up to the top of the bar. Then it’s to the rack as Ducasse squats 405 pounds in rapid succession, racking the weight at the end.
He completed the first round of his circuit in just a handful of minutes and now hands are on his hips as he looks back toward the field, knowing he needs to do the circuit all over again. But that’s OK with the Jets' lineman. Work like this will allow him to, using his favorite word, “compete” for a starting role with the Jets next season. At least that's the hope.
Rewind a year ago and Ducasse was a month out from the NFL draft, a four-year player at UMass who was big on size and potential but small on the minds of fans. Not too much has changed.
The former second-round pick is still a bit of an enigma, his only two appearances during his rookie season coming in blowout wins over Buffalo. To be honest, not much is known about him or how his transition to the NFL is going.
But now, Ducasse has a year in the league under his belt and the benefit of a season of learning and physically maturing. His stats, as meager as they were last year, don’t tell the full story and he feels they won’t tell the story of his sophomore campaign.
“I’m in way better shape than last year, although I was in good shape this time last year getting ready for the draft – I’m in NFL shape now,” Ducasse told Metro. “This year, I know more what I need to do and I need to come in ready and prepared to compete. I didn’t expect to be in a position to compete last year, but this year there’s that chance for me to compete for playing time.”
That “chance” for Ducasse lies in the fact that last month, the Jets cut veteran right tackle Damien Woody, a casualty of the tight salary cap. Ducasse, who practiced with the Jets at both right tackle and left tackle, is seen by many as the heir to the position. The fact is that Ducasse was groomed last year to take over at either of the tackle positions if need be and this offseason presents him the opportunity to get ready to potentially start along the Jets line next year.
“Last year, I was told by the coaches to be ready to go in, that if there was an injury I’d need to be ready to go in and play. I didn’t play a whole lot, but I had to be ready and that was my mindset, to be ready,” Ducasse said. “It’s my dream to start, I want to start but I don’t know what is going on or if the Jets think I’m going to be one of the guys to compete for that position. I can’t control that, I can only control myself and how I prepare.”
But if Ducasse has his way, when general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan do have that conversation about the offensive line and in particular the open right tackle position, he’ll be a talking point. It’s that desire to start in 2011 that leads him to work out with Brian Martin at TEST Sports Clubs in Martinsville. Ducasse trained at the expansive facility before the NFL Draft and now he’s back, putting in time and reps alongside teammates Jamaal Westerman and Kris Jenkins along with the Buffalo Bills Donald Jones and the New York Giants Barry Cofield.
Ducasse is working with Skip Fuller of the TEST staff on increasing the leverage in his hips and adding a bit more muscle. He’s back down to 330 pounds after adding some weight down the season and right now “that’s the weight I want to be at and I play the best at.”
Unlike last year when he was taken aback by the speed and physicality of the league, Ducasse has a frame of reference that he believes will allow him to compete for the starting right tackle job.
“First, it was my dream to play in the NFL and now it’s my job,” Ducasse said. “And I’m better prepared and now in better shape. I want to come in ready because if I’m ready physically, then my mind is sharper, too.
“And you need to be sharp if you want to compete.”