Getty Images

Jets Brian Winters thriving at right guard

Since being moved to the right side, Brian Winters has improved his play

Getty Images
FLORHAM PARK, N.J.-- Brian Winters can't really explain why. To him, it's the great unknown. 

Don't get the Jets guard wrong, he has his theories as to why his play has improved so much since moving from left guard to right, just no real scientific evidence to back it up. Then again, the "why" means little compared to the "result." And the result is Winters, since making that subtle change, playing the best football of his three-year career. 

"I just feel a lot more comfortable [at right guard]. I just feel like I mesh better there," Winters told Scout.com by his locker Wednesday. "My career could have started out different if I had started at right guard to begin with."

Originally selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Winters started 12 games as a rookie, but struggled mightily. He allowed 10 quarterback sacks, six quarterback hits and 15 quarterback hurries in those games, according to Pro Football Focus. While the Jets were optimistic he'd improve in year two, last year featured more struggles. The Ohio Native allowed 17 quarterback hurries before suffering a season-ending knee injury Week 6. 

It was that poor play that led Winters, who once was a player that was viewed as someone with so much promise, to become an afterthought early this season. With head coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan replacing those that originally drafted Winters, he went from a starter, to a backup, awfully quick. When this season began, Winters was No. 2 on the depth chart behind veteran Willie Colon, who Bowles said simply "wanted it more" 

It would have been easy for Winters to get down on himself, but instead, he relished the opportunity to watch and observe. Looking back on it, getting that chance to sit may have been the best thing for Winters. The guard said he used that time to improve his play so that when he got his shot, he'd be ready. 

"I just worked on myself, worked on myself and continued to improve," Winters said. "In this game, you've gotta grow. So I just continued to work on myself. 

"I watched a lot of film, learned and surrounded myself with great players. I got that chance to learn from a lot of great people."

Winters got his first shot this season in the Jets Week 4 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. With Colon sitting out due a knee injury, Winters started his first game in nearly a calendar year. His first matchup? Miami all-pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh

While many prepared for Suh to have a field day, Winters held his ground. In the game, Suh managed just three tackles with only one of them being for a loss. The Jets, meanwhile, ran for 207 yards and a pair of scores. 

"I don't really look at names or players," Winters said when asked about the game. "Whoever is in front of me is who I'm going to play. It doesn't matter if he's an all-world, or just a good guy. Everyone in the NFL is good, so you gotta just keep preparing yourself every week. 

Getty Images
Winters went back to the bench two weeks later, but when Colon's knee flared up again, leading to his placement on the season-ending injured reserve, Winters took over as the team's starting right guard. 

 

Since then, he's been solid and improved each week.

"He fits in well. He's tough-minded, hard-nosed," Bowles said when asked about Winters. "He's elevated his game some. Back [in training camp], I thought Willie beat him out fair and square. Since then, he's come on to be a heckuva player.

"He's got more experience mentally, physically he's cleaned up some of his footwork. He's always been a nasty player, but now he's a smarter player."

This season, Winters has allowed only one sack, and is a key cog in a blocking effort that has started to pick up steam as of late. Against the Tennessee Titans last week, Winters helped pave the way for a Jets rushing attack that ran for 183 yards on the ground. 

For a positional group like an offensive line that relies so much on playing as a unit, the Jets front, with Winters hitting his stride, is starting to hit theirs. The five men are beginning to play together, and as a result, New York's offense is playing some of its best football of the season. 

Winters sees that, too. And believes it's only the start; just the surface being scratched on what eventually can be accomplished. 

"Things are starting to mesh now, and that's only going to get better," he said. "It's great right now, and we're just going to continue to roll."

***

Connor Hughes is the New York Jets beat writer for The Journal Inquirer and Scout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes), or via email (connor_j_hughes@yahoo.com)


Jets Insider Top Stories