The Jets started camp in much the same way they finished their season – with a strong defense and an offense predicated on simplicity and churning out yards.
From the message boards of GreenAndWhiteReport.com, site publisher Kristian Dyer answers your questions based on the first three days on training camp in Cortland.
Q: How much of a difference so far is there between Ducasse and Slauson?
A: It seems like Matt Slauson has been with the team for five years now, but it is easy to forget that the sixth round pick was taken in last year's draft and just turned 24 years old this past February. Slauson is a big boy and his tattoos seemingly add 15 pounds of ink to each tricep – there is no denying that he is definitely a NFL caliber left guard. Slauson excels in pass protection, using his long grasp and powerful upper body very well but he is not the best run blocker on this team. That title would fall to second round pick Vlad Ducasse, the man he is battling for the starting position.
The fact that the Jets are still a run first, pass second team gives Ducasse the edge in this battle.
The two are very evenly matched, but like everyone knows, Ducasse was taken in the top 75 picks for a reason and it's not to stand on the sidelines. He is a physical beast, a mauler who moves as well as any offensive lineman in this draft. I had one league source tell me that he thought Ducasse was a first round pick who was every bit as good as Ryan Clady, who was taken #12 overall by Denver in 2008. Ducasse moves very well and pulls extremely well for a player of his size. He's powerful on contact and his hips are surprisingly fluid. The guy moves like a tight end in a tackle's body.
What makes this battle especially intriguing is the fact that Ducasse had a notoriously high work ethic while at UMass and Slauson is known as a competitor on the field and in the weight room. I heard a story from a source close to Ducasse that leading up to the NFL Draft, there was one day that some family difficulties had befallen some of his relatives. Unable to help the situation, Ducasse could have easily taken the day off and used it as an excuse to sleep or goof off or perhaps mope. Instead, he put in one of his best workouts in the pre-draft period and stayed focused the entire session.
That work ethic was on display in Cortland. Ducasse is still very raw in terms of technique, but he's been consistent in making classroom sessions and position meetings on time and the veterans I've talked to have praised him as a hard worker and an eager learner.
Slauson is solid and dependable and there's nothing wrong with that, but his best chance to start in this league might not be with the Jets or at least, not at left guard for the foreseeable future. If something opened up on the other side of the line, Slauson certainly has the potential to start and adapt quite well over there.
So let's focus on Ducasse for a minute. You know from OTA sessions and mini-camp that I am a huge fan – he's a truly special physical talent. Ducasse pulls so well and gets down the field very fast in run support. This will be helpful when the Jets pull Shonn Greene outside the hash marks to get him around the edges as Ducasse can definitely be the lead blocker with his speed and agility. Nimble, could well be his middle name.
Also, with an offensive weapon such as LaDainian Tomlinson who likes short routes, Ducasse can be that player who can get down the field in a hurry to provide blocking for short passing routes.
Currently, I give the overall edge to Ducasse right now though so much of this will depend on the playbook and who has the better grasp of the scheme in the weeks leading up to week one. Right now, the two players have an almost even split in terms of who is getting reps with the first team. Slauson might get the nod come opening day but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if by week five, Ducasse had entrenched himself in the starting role.
Remember, the Jets jettisoned Alan Faneca this off-season in large part because they were unhappy with his run blocking. Ducasse's strength is his run blocking and ability to get down the field and the Jets drafted him for just this reason.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012. Have you signed up for GreenAndWhiteReport.com today?