The name on the back of his jersey read Hunter, but it might as well have read “E-ZPass,” such was the form of right tackle against the Giants.
The much-maligned Wayne Hunter was the goat of his team’s 26-3 loss in their second preseason game, involved in all three sacks quarterback Mark Sanchez took in the first half and failing to inspire any confidence in a fan base that turned on him last year. It was Hunter’s first action of the preseason and it was brutally bad.
Hunter did not play last week in the loss to the Bengals, but he probably graded out better in that game than he did on Saturday night.
“It was good first live action for me against a good defense. It’s good film for me to watch and see what way to improve,” Hunter said. “I didn’t want to give up the pressure inside. That happened. It’s a good defense. It’s something I can really watch film and learn from.”
Jets fans were fed a steady offseason diet of lines from head coach Rex Ryan that Hunter had improved over last year’s form. To be fair, 2011 was the first time in his career where he entered as the starter and the learning curve was steep, especially without the benefit of a true offseason due to the labor impasse. Hunter is among the most athletic lineman in the league but he never consistently put it together last season.
Despite the lackluster showing of last year, Hunter was still penciled in as the starter at right tackle, especially after the Jets had to rescind their late-July trade for Jeff Otah due to a failed physical. Hunter appears to the best option right now — a scary thought for Jets fans who saw his imitation of a revolving door on Saturday night.
Against the league’s best pass rush featuring Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora among others, Hunter was exposed.
“It’s a good defensive front but I need to put it on myself as there’s some things I need to work on and for me there was some technical flaws I need to work on,” Hunter said. “Like I said, it was first good live action for me to hang my hat on and just move on from there. I can only get better or get worse. I can’t run away from the situation.”
Ryan expressed concern over the number of sacks conceded, but also voiced postgame support for Hunter. It might have been an impossible task for Hunter to get his first taste of live action against the league’s most dominating pass rush but with Bills defensive end Mario Williams on the schedule for Week 1, Hunter had better improve.
Entering his seventh season in the league, Williams has 53 career sacks.
“The first game is coming quick and it doesn’t get easier with Mario,” Hunter said. “I need to figure this out or the guys are going to find someone who can do the job. It’s the name of the game.”
To his credit, Hunter is brutally honest in the assessment of his play. He isn’t ready to panic quite yet, but there is an acknowledgment that there are serious flaws to his pass protection right now. His teammates, however, are voicing support for him.
“All of us have things we have to improve. We’re behind Wayne as our guy. He’s our right tackle,” left guard Matt Slauson said. “We don’t have to be worrying about Wayne and he doesn’t have to be worried. He just has to go to work. I believe in him. We all do.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for up-to-the-minute news on Gang Green.