FLORHAM PARK: The one-time five-man battle for the starting right guard position on the Jets offensive line is over. For the first time, there is an official No. 1 atop the depth chart.
Thirty-two year old, 10-year NFL veteran Willie Colon will return as New York's starter for a third consecutive year.
"He was more aggressive than anyone else competing for the position," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "He wanted it more, and came out and played like it. He proved it."
While early in Jets training camp Brian Winters and Brent Qvale split first-team reps with Colon, it's been mostly No. 66 in the weeks since. Colon has started each of the Jets three preseason games, and has received nearly all starting reps in practice.
Bowles said he was impressed with Colon from the moment he arrived at camp, praising the lineman's physical shape. On the field, Colon was solid, and missed few assignments.
"He played tougher, he played more physical than the rest of them," Bowles said. "So, he's going to be the one to start."
At one point in his career, Colon was one of the better guards in the NFL, but has struggled as of late. In 2014, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Colon was ranked 50th among guards that played at least 50 percent of their team's snaps. He received a -16.3 grading, and was flagged for the second-most penalties among qualifying centers, guards and tackles.
The issue with having Colon in the starting lineup is also his health. Just this year, Colon has missed time with a knee injury during OTAs and minicamp, then the last two days of camp with sourness. Bowles said Colon's health is something that will be monitored, eluding to the fact he needs to realize "when (Colon) needs his reps, and when he needs to rest."
Colon admitted this camp was one of the tougher of his career. Throughout its entirety, he's battled one thing or another.
"Somedays I just felt like crap," Colon said. "But there's a bigger picture. I have a family to feel. When you love the game as much as I do, your love and desire for the game can push you through anything.
"I genuinely love playing football, I love playing for the Jets and I love playing with those guys. It's easy to come to work when you love the people you play with."
With Colon officially New York's starter, Bowles said his backup will be Brian Winters.