Monday July 23rd, 2012

Jeff Otah (left) was a first-round draft choice (19th overall) in 2008. (Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE)

You won't find anyone in NFL circles to tell you that Jeff Otah is a "sure thing" at right tackle for the Jets, in light of their trade to acquire him from Carolina on Monday. But the Jets didn't have the luxury of waiting on a sure thing to come along, either.

After watching Wayne Hunter butcher that position last year (and failing to see any substantive progress from 2010 draft pick Vladimir Ducasse), the Jets shipped a conditional draft choice to Carolina for the underachieving Otah.

Otah has played all of four games over the past two seasons while dealing with various injuries, including lingering knee ailments. He's also never played more than 13 games in his four NFL seasons.

This is like picking a number in Roulette: Odds are that Otah won't make it through all of 2012, but if he does ... the payoff will be huge.

That high-reward potential is enough to justify this deal for the Jets. Hunter played almost every down for the Jets last season, but he allowed 11 sacks (third-most in the league), 32 QB hurries and was flagged 11 times. Rex Ryan has almost out of his way to stand by Hunter, proclaiming in April, "I believe that Wayne will have a big year for us."

Contrast that, though, to what offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo told The Associated Press: "Until they ship him out of here or shoot me dead in my office, the guy's the starting right tackle."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Despite Hunter's struggles, the catalyst for Monday's move may have been Ducasse's slow development. The Jets took a chance on the massive linemen in Round 2 of the 2010 draft, but he has yet to step up his game, either at RT or guard.

Otah is in a similar camp -- he was the 19th overall pick in 2008 and the Panthers basically gave him away Monday -- except that we saw very real glimmers from him back in his rookie season and, to a lesser extent, his second year. We're a ways removed from those performances, of course, but they're something for the Jets to point to with at least a tiny measure of confidence.

One more thing worth pointing out: The right tackle spot on the Jets' line becomes even that much more important when Tim Tebow's on the field. His left-handed throwing motion would turn the Jets' right tackle into a blindside blocker, amping up the pressure. Is Otah a sure thing? There are very few of those walking around in the NFL. Let's call him a smart gamble by a team that needed to do something at right tackle.

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