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Austin Howard of Jets out to prove he's a starting right tackle

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Austin Howard felt more at home with the first unit Friday in his second day as the new starting right tackle for the New York Jets.

Howard got the starting nod Thursday, taking over for nine-year veteran Wayne Hunter.

"I'm on a line with three Pro Bowlers, and it can't get any better than that," Howard said. "They're really helping me out. I got the extra time, both on the field and in the film room. I feel like I'm making progress and doing better."

At 6-foot-7, 333 pounds, Howard is the biggest player on the Jets' roster. Howard, 25, was awarded the starting spot after Hunter got beat for three sacks in a 26-3 preseason loss to the New York Giants last Saturday night.

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Hunter was part of a line last year that let quarterback Mark Sanchez to be sacked 39 times.

Howard looked solid in drills ahead of the Jets' preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night. He was signed by the Jets off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad last November and saw limited action with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. The Eagles signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Iowa.

"I have to take full advantage of it," Howard said. "When you get a new chance, you always have to have a positive outlook. I have the mindset to show what I can do."

Jets coach Rex Ryan wouldn't signal out anything Howard did well in practice.

"He just has to do his job," Ryan said. "That's where his focus needs to be. Whether he's the starting right tackle or left guard, it shouldn't matter.

The Jets tried to upgrade the right tackle position when they traded for former first-round pick Jeff Otah from the Panthers, but Otah failed his physical and the trade was voided. They're committed to Hunter and his $2.3 million guaranteed contract, but made the move for Howard after the rough outing against the Giants.

Hunter took his demotion as motivation.

"It's a blow to the pride, no question," said Hunter, who was a valuable backup to Damien Woody before inheriting the starting job after Woody retired before last season. "You know you're a better player than you're showing. It's just not clicking right now. I'm still waiting for this to all settle in."

Hunter knew he'd be scrutinized this year.

"Sure, there was pressure on me. ... Mentally, it's very tough to handle. I know they have to put the best 11 on the field and that's not my role right now."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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