The rookie QB earned the backup role thanks to an impressive week of practice
Three games remain in the New York Jets' 2006 regular season. As customary practice in the National Football League, players had the day off Tuesday. But a number of Jets stayed active with their free time, participating in team community events.
Come Wednesday morning, the Jets will receive their game plans from the coaching staff and start preparing in earnest for the Minnesota Vikings. The Jets and the Vikings have only squared off seven times, and the Green & White hold a 6-1 series advantage including a 2-1 mark at Minnesota. This contest will be played inside at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the Jets won in their only visit there – a 31-24 decision in 1994.
The upcoming game will pit two squads fighting for their postseason lives in both the Jets (7-6) and the Vikings (6-7). Both teams sit just a game out of their conference's wild card races. Let's take a look some critical topics of conversation amongst Jets fans.
If the Jets win out, will they make the playoffs?New England owns a stranglehold of the AFC East with a two-game lead over the Jets and just three games to play. The Pats will clinch the division with a win and a Jets' loss or tie, or a tie and a Jets' loss.
New York is a player in the AFC wild card hunt. If the Jets were able to complete a three-game win streak here to close the regular season, they would finish 10-6 and own a 7-5 record within the conference. Right now, New York the trails both Cincinnati and Jacksonville by a game. Both the Bengals (at Indianapolis, at Denver, Pittsburgh) and the Jags (at Tennessee, New England, at Kansas City) have difficult remaining schedules, so it is highly unlikely that both teams would win out. Kansas City and Denver are also 7-6 and Buffalo, Miami, Pittsburgh and Tennessee are all still mathematically alive at 6-7.
So if you are a Jets' fan, who are you are rooting for this weekend? You would like to see Tennessee top Jacksonville, Indy defeat Cincinnati, San Diego hold serve at home against Kansas City, and Arizona topple Denver. All four are possible.
The bottom line though is the Jets have to take care of their business one game at a time. This upcoming road swing of games at Minnesota and then Miami is going to be a great test. All Eric Mangini will have his team focused on is Minnesota and that's where their focus should lie. If the Jets win this weekend, we'll examine scenarios further next week.
Why not go for it on 4th and one?Facing a fourth and one from the Bills' 38-yard line to start the second half, the Jets lined up for a play and then let the clock expire for a delay of the game penalty. The Jets were trailing 21-13 at the time and many people wanted the offense to run a play. Mangini explained Monday that he wanted to run a quarterback sneak, but he didn't like the look Buffalo gave his offense. Once that happened, the plan was to pin the Bills' deep.
The philosophy was sound, but the execution was poor. Ben Graham booted the ball into the end zone and gave the Bills the ball at their 20. If the Bills started inside their 10 on that next possession, they probably would have played conservative, giving the Jets great field position in the next drive. But after the Graham touchback, the Bills advanced to their 38 and then Brian Moorman boomed a 50-yard punt. Four plays later, Aaron Schobel recorded a critical strip-sack of Chad Pennington.
Kellen Clemens was Pennington's backup Sunday. What should we make of it?It is a good sign because the Oregon product is progressing at practice. Mangini continues to reward his players for practicing well and that is why Clemens received the designation. But that doesn't mean the rookie is the "backup quarterback." He will have to continue to perform well or Patrick Ramsey will assume that role once again.
How did the defense play against the Bills?
Not as bad as the score would indicate. The Bills got 14 points directly off turnovers. The Jets racked up four sacks of J.P. Losman and they also recorded a takeaway inside Bills' territory, which led to a field goal. The big plays were killers though as over-aggressiveness burned the Jets on Willis McGahee's 57-yard touchdown run and Lee Evans' 77-yard score. You take away those two plays and the Jets only allowed 184 total yards.
What about the play of rookie tackle D'Bickashaw Ferguson?
The rookie didn't play his best game and nobody is going to tell you differently. Before jumping to conclusions though, Aaron Schobel is a fantastic player and the offensive line as a unit didn't have a tremendous day. Cedric Houston only averaged 2.8 yards per rush against a Bills' team which had struggled mightily against the run. The Jets' rookies up front – Ferguson at left tackle and center Nick Mangold – have both had good rookie seasons and the line as a whole has made significant progress.
How do the Jets approach their thinking at fullback?No different than anywhere else. Mangini said James Hodgins "has been one of our most improved players." The Jets like Hodgins' physicality and Mangini said there could be games in the future where both Hodgins and B.J. Askew are active.
Any things to look for in regards to the Vikings?The Dome hasn't been so friendly to Minnesota as the Vikings are only 3-3 at home this season. Their rush defense is simply the best in the league, limiting teams to 54.1 yards per rushing per game. Expect the Jets to see if they can spread the Vikings out and attack through the air. On the other side of the ball, the Vikes can run it well and have averaged 123 yards per game on the ground. Chester Taylor, who has rushed for 1,098 yards, is expected back after sitting out last weekend's win over Detroit with a rib injury. If the Jets can contain the run, they would love to put the ball in Brad Johnson's hands. Johnson has thrown only eight touchdown passes against 15 interceptions this season.
Wednesday Injury Report Jets Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), LB Matt Chatham (foot), Eric Smith (foot) & LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder)
Probable: *RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Brad Kassell (shin), *WR Justin McCareins (foot), *DL Rashad Moore (hand), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *DL Dewayne Robertson (shoulder), *TE Sean Ryan (thigh) *WR Brad Smith (shoulder) *S Jamie Thompson (ankle) & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (shoulder)
Vikings Questionable: RB Chester Taylor (ribs), QB Brooks Bollinger (shoulder)
Probable: CB Cedric Griffin (neck), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), WR Marcus Robinson (ankle) & DT Pat Williams (knee)
*Denotes players who participated in practice