It would be easy to look at Chad Pennington's preseason statistics and surmise that he's had a poor summer. But that conclusion would be both ill-advised and shortsighted.
"I think Chad's had a very strong camp. I think he's had a great camp," wide receiver Justin McCareins said before today's practice. "Obviously in the preseason, we have not shown all our offensive capabilities, not even close. There are so many things he does daily in practice — the decisions he makes, getting guys lined up in the right spots and the intangibles he brings to the team — that people don't realize. I think you have to wait until the regular season to show what we can do and I look forward to it."
Pennington and the Jets' first team offense exploded out of the gates Saturday night, then mostly fizzled afterwards. A 79-yard touchdown pass to RB Leon Washington was followed by minus-5 yards combined on the ensuing seven possessions. Pennington, who finished 5-of-11 for 89 yards, was sacked twice and under duress on a couple of other occasions.
"The one thing we look at is the group performance. One person cannot dictate how the group performs," said head coach Eric Mangini. "There are a lot of plays where, if as a unit they had performed better, then the opportunities to complete the ball down the field would have been better and the running game would have been more effective. So it's really more of a whole group total approach than of one person versus another person."
Poor execution was definitely a factor, but the Jets — by plan — didn't have an elaborate offensive game plan, either. Vanilla is a smart approach when you are scheduled to face the same opponent on the first Sunday of October.
"Everybody across the league only uses certain things in preseason, but that's no excuse to not be able to go out there and not have a good performance," Pennington said.
After participating in three preseason games, the Jets' starting signalcaller may receive a rest Thursday night in Philadelphia. Pennington, who has completed 57.1 percent of his 21 attempts this summer, did not suit up against the Eagles in last year's preseason finale.
So an interesting summer season (if he doesn't play a series or two at the Linc) is probably over for Pennington. He didn't attempt a pass against the Falcons, then was victimized by two interceptions returned for scores the following week against the Vikes.
"As long as we have a good attitude and come to work every day with that right mental frame, we'll be fine," he said today. "When you don't have that, then that is when you need to start to worry. I don't think our guys have a bad attitude. We have a good attitude about where we're going and where we want to go and that's most important."
Last summer, Pennington won a highly publicized open competition at quarterback. His numbers were pedestrian in two summer games (he was excused from the Washington game for personal reasons) as he completed 58.8 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and one interception. His preseason passer ratings the past two seasons have been 51.6 (2007) and 60.8 ('06).
Said McCareins: "I think preseason is mainly for feeling and maybe getting some momentum and just getting into the habit of winning games and getting a look at a lot of players and decisions to be made upstairs."
And after last season's ordinary preseason, the Marshall alum went on to shred the Titans in the opener for 319 yards through the air and two touchdowns. That was just the beginning of a special season for The Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.
So nobody inside Weeb Ewbank Hall — including CP — is alarmed over a few preseason kinks that need to be worked on.
"Just because the preseason games haven't maybe gone as well as we would have liked, I don't think we need to push the panic button," said Pennington. "We've had a really successful camp, we had a great spring and OTAs, and we just have to start putting some things together and making sure we're more consistent."