While the main focus of the Jets opening day success was the revitalization of the offense, the real unsung heroes of the win against Buffalo were the men along Gang Green's offensive line.
The brightest star of Mark Sanchez's protection unit was Austin Howard, who since replacing Wayne Hunter at right tackle, has transitioned to his new role as a starter flawlessly. Howard was given the responsibility of guarding two-time All-Pro defensive end Mario Williams. Not only did Howard keep Williams from reaching the quarterback, he made the two-time Pro Bowler look pedestrian, possibly showing why Houston let him go without much of a fight. Center Nick Mangold lauded his fellow linemen on his ability to defend one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
"I thought Austin did a fantastic job against a premier pass rusher, Mario (Williams)," said Mangold of Howard. "He did some good things out there, and some things that can obviously be worked on."
Howard himself asserted that he could work on a few aspects of his game to make himself a complete player. After reviewing tape of the win, Howard said that he himself to practice harder and build on his weaknesses.
"It really comes to the point when you want to keep building on the win," stated Howard. "So the focus and the intensity of practice become arguably a little harder because you're supposed to keep building on everything and continue to be more successful week in, week out. "
With a trip to Heinz Field on the horizon and a game against a win-starved Pittsburgh Steelers team looming, Howard will have to focus on the game ahead and how he will defend one of the best defensive lines in recent years. Mangold believes that Howard, although young, is up to the challenge.
"As an offensive lineman, everyone believes that you will stay level-headed," Mangold remarked. "It's going to be a heck of a challenge for us. He needs to take that performance that he had this past weekend into this week against a very good Pittsburgh defense."