Clemens steps back for the throw
You have to go two seasons back to find Kellen Clemens' last start for the Jets — the 13-10 overtime win over Kansas City at the Meadowlands in the final game of the 2007 season.
"Technically I'm on a one-game win streak," Clemens told reporters this afternoon with a smile. "It seems like a long time ago."
He started eight games that season, which began with Chad Pennington as the starter. Those are the only starts in Clemens' four-year Jets career.
But that was a 4-12 season when the Jets were out of the postseason picture early. This year is different, because at 6-6 the Jets are still in the playoff hunt and facing a must-win on the road against the 1-11 Buccaneers on Sunday. And today Rex Ryan announced that Clemens will start and Mark Sanchez will not be available as he continues to rehab his sprained knee.
"It's obviously a four-game season to get a fifth. We have to go down to Tampa and handle business," Clemens said. "Manage the game, control the football, and with the way that our offensive line is playing, the way that our defense is playing, I just have to do my job.
"There is not a lot of added pressure on this position for the game."
Also at the end of '07 the Jets had the 19th-ranked rushing offense. This year they're No. 1 and that's something Clemens can lean on without a lot of recent time working with his receivers.
"I think it's a great situation for him," said T Damien Woody. "With us rushing the ball and all those type of things, I think he has a lot of things going for him in this game."
Last season Clemens saw action only in two relief appearances for Brett Favre. But the Oregon product picked up a lot of things from the future Hall of Famer and over the years from Pennington.
"Favre had a completely different style and a different routine of his own," he said. "To be able to take stuff from Chad that I liked, take stuff from Brett and combine it into what I felt worked best for me, it diversifies your preparation."
Two Decembers since his last start, Clemens is once again being called upon to fill the role, this time for the injured starter.
"This year having a chance to watch how defenses play, I am one year further into perfecting my routine as a quarterback and how I prepare because it's different for each quarterback," he said. "It's night and day how much more comfortable I feel and how prepared I am than in 2007."
This year Clemens has been the one passing on the information to Sanchez. He's worked with the rookie since the OTAs and minicamps in the off-season.
Wallace Wright said Clemens is "more important to Mark than anybody else." And WR Brad Smith said that Clemens, who knows coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's playbook inside and out, is "one of the smartest guys" he's been around.
In the meantime, the rook will be watching the vet perform from back in New Jersey, continuing to heal up while the Jets continue to make their late playoff run.
"You put the team first," Clemens said. "I've tried to help Mark out as much as I can and support him. Now we're in a week-long situation that is a little bit different."
Those catching the ball have changed this season as well, especially since dynamic WR Braylon Edwards has joined the team. Monday was the first time Clemens threw a pass to No. 17 all season. They'll have only two more days of practice this week to develop some instant rapport.
"Kellen's similar to Derek Anderson, who I played with in Cleveland," said Edwards. "He has a strong arm, throws the ball fast. He anticipates spots, and that's kind of what Kellen does.
"I kind of just took myself back to my time with DA today in practice to make up for some lost time with Kellen and it worked. We had pretty decent chemistry today. He made some good passes."
"Right now I think the biggest thing for him is getting reps, getting all the reps in practice," said Woody. "I'm excited to see him play. I'm sure he's going to relish the opportunity and he's going to play a heck of a football game."
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