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Jets Right Tackle Wayne Hunter Benched; Austin Howard To Replace Him As Starter

Wayne Hunter (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

Wayne Hunter (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Jets head coach Rex Ryan has made the decision to bench offensive tackle Wayne Hunter.

At least for now.

Ryan told reporters on Thursday that the nine-year veteran will not start on Sunday when Gang Green faces off with the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium. Instead, he’ll serve as the sixth man.

“I know what I said about Wayne being the starting tackle this week,” Ryan told reporters during his news conference. “The more I went back and looked at where we are as a football team — and getting feedback from coaches and knowing the success that Wayne had as a sixth man — I’ve decided that’s the way we’re going to go.”

Starting in Hunter’s place will be Austin Howard, a third-year player who was previously cut by both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens. New York signed  Howard to its active roster on November 25, 2011 off of the Ravens’ practice squad. The undrafted 25-year-old out of Northern Iowa has played just four NFL games — including one start — since debuting with the Eagles in 2010.

Though Howard appears to be atop the depth chart at right tackle for the moment, Ryan told reporters that he won’t commit to him starting on Week 1.

The front office could explore trade options and will likely scour the waiver wire, but the team has confirmed that it has no intention of trading Hunter. And Ryan doesn’t believe that making an acquisition to fill the spot is the answer.

“We don’t know who’s going to be cut from other teams,” Ryan said. “I don’t believe you’re going to find somebody right now who can be a starting right tackle ahead of who we have.”

Hunter has been with the Jets since 2007, and signed a four-year, $15 million contract extension with New York in 2011.

Jets fans, who would you like to see starting at right tackle come Week 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…