Following last weekend's shutout loss to Jacksonville, nobody wants to get back on the field more than quarterback Chad Pennington. Interestingly enough, Pennington will face the Miami Dolphins and the Jets' divisional foe from South Florida is a team Pennington has performed well against.
In his past two games against the Dolphins, Pennington was mistake-free and spectacular at times. The seventh-year veteran from Marshall helped toppled the 'Fins 17-7 in a September '05 meeting, throwing for 190 yards and two touchdown passes. In the second meeting between the clubs in '04, Pennington led the Jets to a 41-14 romp while passing for three touchdowns and registering a 131.4 quarterback rating. In those two Jets victories, he tossed five scores against no interceptions and completed 30-of-49 (61.2 pct.) passes for 379 yards.
Despite a successful recent past against the Jets' division rival, Pennington heads into the weekend with a tremendous amount of respect for the Dolphins' defense.
"After a week like last week versus Jacksonville, it doesn't get any easier for offense this week," said Pennington, who is 4-1 in his career as a starter against the Dolphins. "You're playing against a defense that's only giving up 91 yards rushing. And even more impressive, they're only giving up 172 yards passing."
The Miami defense plays well together as a unit and Pennington says there is more to the Dolphins than just their big names.
"They do an excellent job of playing good team defense. Everyone knows about Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas," Pennington said. "But across the board, they do an excellent job, they understand how to play defense and communicate really well, and they've been very successful so far."
On Wednesday, Pennington placed much of the blame on his own shoulders after he completed just 10 for 17 passes for 71 yards in Jacksonville. He was victimized by three interceptions and it was his least productive passing performance this season.
"It was a simple case of a quarterback trying to do too much and trying to make more out of something that was there. That was the one issue," he said. "That's why I was disappointed in myself, because that's not normally how I play the game. Normally I try to let the game come to me and let those opportunities come when they present themselves, not try to force those opportunities. And that's why I did, I forced those opportunities and it hurt me.
"I take pride in what I do," he added. "I take pride in how our team performs and that falls on the quarterback with his performance. When I don't perform well, I look at that analytically and criticize myself and take it very hard and see where I can get better and help our team win."
The ace up Pennington's sleeve this season has undoubtedly been wide receiver Laveranues Coles. Entering the week six match leading all NFL receivers with 33 catches, Coles says this Jets team either thrives or dives as an entity, not as individuals.
"Chad being the person that he is going to put a lot of the blame upon himself, which I don't think he should do," Coles said. "Him being the person that he is and the teammate that he is, he would always point everything at himself.
Head coach Eric Mangini says Pennington, an offensive co-captain, will be able to put the past behind him.
"He's competitive and passionate, which is one side of it, but he's also extremely smart and analytical," said the first-year head coach. "So as much as disappointment comes with any loss, he moves past that pretty quickly and then dives right into the next opponent."
Even though Pennington has predominantly been sharp during his team's 2-3 start, he may not take all the offensive snaps Sunday against the Dolphins. Brad Smith, a fourth round selection from Missouri, has lined up everywhere throughout the Jets offense including the quarterback position.
At Missouri, Smith became the first quarterback to pass for 8,000 yards and run for 4,000 in a collegiate career.
"Well, he's definitely a special athlete. He is a guy that is very exciting with the ball in his hands. Anyone who holds 69 conference and NCAA records as a football player in college is a pretty exciting player," said Pennington. "We're excited to have him here. He presents different issues for the defense and he gives us different ways to be multiple and to exploit the defense and use him creatively."
"We're going to not experiment, but explore all the different options. You're always looking for those guys that have multiple roles," said Mangini. "I wouldn't be opposed at trying him at corner, safety, rush end, whatever we need."
Using him creatively may be an understatement. Already this season, Smith has lined up at wide receiver, quarterback, and he even started at running back in week five. With versatility in addition to explosive athletic prowess, Smith's potential in this league seems limitless. As the weeks go on, it will be very interesting and exciting to see what Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have in store for the 22-year old offensive weapon.
"Again, it's not just Chad doing this; it's all of us together," he added. "We lose collectively; no one man can lose a game for us."
Friday Injury Report Jets
Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (calf), RW Tim Dwight (thigh), RB Cedric Houston (knee), OL Pete Kendall (thigh) & OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Probable:*DL Dave Ball (hand), *RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *OL Anthony Clement (shin), *DL Bobby Hamilton (knee), *FB James Hodgins (knee), *OL Adrian Jones (thigh), *CB Justin Miller (hip), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *S Kerry Rhodes (thigh), *TE Sean Ryan (Chest), WR Brad Smith (thigh), *S Eric Smith (knee), & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (knee) & *RB Leon Washington (hip)
Dolphins Doubtful:WR Marty Booker (chest) & QB Daunte Culpepper (knee)
Questionable:CB Travis Daniels (knee), TE Justin Peelle (knee), & LB Derrick Pope (hamstring)
Probable:*TE Randy McMichael (ribs)
- Denotes players who participated in practice