While he has improved over this period, Sunday was the best performance of his career so far. With no pressure allowed, it marked his first ever game with a perfect Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 100.0. That’s impressive, and not something to gloss over, but it was his run blocking that stood out once again. The team gained 58 of their 177 yards on the ground on runs either side of Howard as he routinely handled Arizona defensive end Darnell Dockett. On 1st-and-Goal with 53 seconds left in the third quarter, Howard pushed Dockett away from the play with ease, eventually blocking him to the ground. The Jets could be headed for an offseason of change, but Howard has shown himself worthy of a starting spot on that offensive line, and that’s not something I expected to be saying after three weeks of the season.
Howard might have been better served if he got the starting job earlier in camp and it might have helped him and Brandon Moore work more efficiently together at the start of the season, but alls well that ends well. Howard has established that he can be a competent starter for the team, and with bigger fish to fry elsewhere this coming offseason, the Jets are going to have need to keep him as a starter next year with money likely to be thin all over. A player like Howard could suffer if Moore leaves the Jets this offseason as Moore has played pretty well and is so comfortable in this group that he knows how to tackle his assignments and help Howard from time to time.
The Jets also have used their extra lineman Jason Smith repeatedly over the season and while Smith might not have been a major force, his contributions have helped stabilize the unit. We'll see what happens with Smith this offseason due to his large payment next year ... maybe he'll still come back to the Jets all the same, but this extra blocker role will be important to continuing to help Austin Howard do his job effectively next year too.