Two years ago, a 24-year-old Brian Winters earned the start at right guard after Willie Colon suffered an injury. That matchup came in Week 4 when the Jets took on the Miami Dolphins in London.
That game provided a surprisingly optimistic outlook on the Jets, who got an early glimpse at Winters’ potential. The Jets committed to Winters long-term this offseason by signing him to a four-year contract worth $29 million.
During that game, while lining up against star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Winters helped the offensive line pave the way for 207 rushing yards and protected quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was not sacked.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Winters — one of the few Jets from that 2015 team still on the current roster — will not play when New York hosts Miami. The Jets’ offensive line will look entirely different (only one of other four starters from that 2015 game are still on the roster) and Winters’ difficult job will either be passed down to Dakota Dozier or Brent Qvale.
Head coach Todd Bowles said the two reserves split reps at practice this past week. He had not decided on the starter Friday afternoon. He said that decision would come Friday evening.
If the Jets go with Dozier to replace Winters, it would create a bit of nostalgia for an old general manager. Ironically, Winters and his potential part-time replacement Dozier are the only two players on the Jets’ roster who were drafted by John Idzik.
Dozier started two games last season after Winters was placed on injured reserve and earned a respectable 76.5 grade from Pro Football Focus in his limited time. Meanwhile Qvale has moved all over the offensive line, seeing time at tackle and guard in the preseason, and has started seven games in his three-year career.
Whomever starts at right guard, Bowles is confident there will not be a lack of cohesion among the unit.
“They are all on the same page. We’ve mixed and matched all preseason, so everybody has a good feel for each other,” Bowles said. “Now that we’re honing in on what running plays we want to do and our protections and actually preparing for people, it’s a lot more cohesion.”
The big variable? The unit is going up against Suh and Cameron Wake, a pair of Pro Bowler players that has the potential to wreck an offensive gameplan.