FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The big men up front are in a huge competition for the New York Jets.
The hot spot is at right guard, specifically. And, a week into training camp, there are several players vying for the starting job in front of — and a bit to the right — of quarterback Geno Smith.READ MORE: Police: 2 Children Found Safe Following Carjacking In Newark; Search On For Suspects
Willie Colon is the incumbent, a 32-year-old veteran entering his 10th NFL season. After opening training camp on the active-physically unable to perform list with a knee issue, he’s back and getting snaps with the starting offense.
But, there’s plenty of competition. Oday Aboushi, Brian Winters, Brent Qvale and Ben Ijalana are all vying for the job, which might not be settled on by coach Todd Bowles until just before the regular season.
“They all know their assignments, that’s for sure,” Bowles said Wednesday. “Going forward, we’ve had a few problems here and there with blitz pick-up with every one of them, but all of them are doing a good job right now.”
There’s also former Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis, who’s currently a free agent and someone the Jets acknowledged they have some interest in.
“It’s going to be a tough spot to decide,” Bowles said.
Here are the guys to watch for, with the winner to play alongside right tackle Breno Giacomini, left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, left guard James Carpenter and center Nick Mangold:
WILLIE COLON, 32 years old, 6-foot-3, 315 pounds
In his third season with the Jets, Colon is a locker-room leader with a Super Bowl ring on his resume, from when he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s a tough guy who scraps with the best of ’em, but gets called for his fair share of penalties with his aggressive approach. Colon was re-signed this offseason to a one-year deal worth $950,000 — but only $65,000 guaranteed. He’ll have to earn his job, even though he’s running with the starters right now.
“I mean, he’s the incumbent. He gets the start,” Bowles said. “But there’s a lot of competition there, so it’s all even.”READ MORE: Police: Burglar Steals From Brooklyn Synagogue 3 Times
ODAY ABOUSHI, 24, 6-4, 308
Aboushi was the team’s starting left guard for most of last season and was solid, but the Jets signed Carpenter from the Seahawks to shore up the spot. So, Aboushi, entering his third NFL season, has been thrust into this competition. He has been relegated to working with the backups through the first week of camp, but Bowles has said the team wants to give some players looks now and then as camp goes on. Aboushi, a 2013 fifth-rounder, started out as a tackle out of Virginia, so he has some position flexibility.
BRIAN WINTERS, 24, 6-4, 320
Winters is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament that sidelined him for all but the first six games of last season. He was the starter as a rookie in 2013 after being a third-rounder out of Kent State, and struggled quite a bit. Winters earned the job out of camp last summer, but again had some issues with pass protection before going down with the injury. Winters appears to be fully healthy and was getting the snaps with the starters this summer before Colon was activated.
BRENT QVALE, 24, 6-7, 315
An impressive physical presence, he’s certainly hard to miss. Qvale — pronounced “KWAL-ee” — is the dark horse of the bunch. He’s a work-in-progress after ending his college career as a right tackle. He was undrafted last year out of Nebraska, but was signed by the Jets after impressing them during a tryout. Qvale stayed at right tackle during training camp, but a concussion derailed his chances to make the roster. He was cut and then added to the practice squad before the regular season, and has been solid this summer while transitioning back to right guard — his original spot with the Cornhuskers.
BEN IJALANA, 25, 6-4, 322
Ijalana was a second-round pick, 49th overall, of Indianapolis in 2011 out of Villanova, but has been hit with hard luck to start his NFL career. He played in four games as a rookie, but tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season while being placed on injured reserve. Ijalana was cleared just before training camp in 2012 when he again tore the ACL. He was claimed off waivers by the Jets in 2013 and played in three games for them last year. Ijalana has been a tackle most of his career.
EVAN MATHIS, 33, 6-5, 298
The two-time Pro Bowl selection and former All-Pro was cut by the Eagles because of contract issues, and several teams have shown an interest in him. The price tag appears to be the lone holdup, and Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan hinted as much earlier in camp. “Evan might have a value he’s looking for right now that may not be in the value that some of the teams want to potentially spend on him,” Maccagnan said. “But we’ll see how that develops.” Depending on how the Jets’ competition is going, Mathis could become a more attractive option — especially after Week 1 of the regular season, when vested veterans’ salaries are not guaranteed.MORE NEWS: Innovative Gift Card Program With Cash Bonus Aims to Assist Newark Businesses
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