INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The Mark Sanchez comeback tour is gaining steam and could consummate at the Meadowlands on Sunday.   If his coach allows it.

Taking a page out of the book of his predecessor, Eric Mangini, Jets head coach Rex Ryan declined to name his starting quarterback for this weekend’s tilt against the Atlanta Falcons at the Meadowlands.

Ryan told reporters Wednesday that he will speak with the team’s medical staff following tomorrow’s practice before making any decision.  However, all indications point to Sanchez getting the green light Sunday, barring a major setback.

QB Mark Sanchez returned to practice Wednesday and (JetsInsider.com Photo)

QB Mark Sanchez returned to practice Wednesday and appears to be on the verge of returning on Sunday against Atlanta (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“You look at different things,” said Ryan.  “You want to make sure there’s no swelling or anything else and that he feels good….make sure the knee is not shifting or anything like that.”

Sanchez split the first-team repetitions with Kellen Clemens at this morning’s practice, moving fluidly and appearing pain-free.

“It felt good today,” said Sanchez.  “I felt pretty accurate.  It just felt good to be back on the field, it felt like forever.”

“If you’re just watching him, you wouldn’t know if he had an issue or not,” said Ryan.  “He’s not favoring his leg or anything else.   I think he’s way further along than he was last week.”

Sanchez’s receivers agreed with their head coaches assessment, complimenting their quarterback on a fine practice.

“He looked pretty good,” said WR Braylon Edwards.  “He was in a rhythm, he looked okay.   It looked like he was moving well on the knee.   He made some good passes, he looked impressive today.”

“I think he looked pretty sharp,” said WR Jerricho Cotchery.  “I think for the first day back, he did very well.”

Sanchez was also seen working out the right knee in the weight room following practice.   If he is cleared to play on Sunday, the rookie will do so with braces on both knees.

“I look like Forrest Gump out there,” joked Sanchez.  “Whatever, if I gotta wear roller blades, I’ll wear roller blades…if it means wearing two braces, I’ll wear two braces.”

“Whatever it takes.  I really want to get on the field and I think the guys understand that.   They saw me out there today.”

In Sunday’s win in Tampa,  Kellen Clemens was by no means spectacular but was able to get the job done.  Clemens, who hadn’t started since 2007, appeared much like a quarterback making his first start in two years.   Clemens was off target on a number of passes, including a would-have-been touchdown to WR Jerricho Cotchery, and finished 12 for 23 for 111 yards without a TD or interception.

“He really did a great job managing the game,” said Ryan.  “We have great confidence in Kellen.”

Whether it’s Clemens or Sanchez on Sunday, the Jets’ offense is confident they can get the job done.   “We’re going to do what we do regardless,” says OT Damien Woody.  “We know our identity as an offense.  We’re a power football team running the ball, that’s first and foremost.  We try to make plays in the passing game when they’re there for us, but our bread and butter is running the football.”

“Obviously, Mark is the quarterback and if he’s available then that’s great.  But if he’s not, then Kellen will come in and run the offense and we can still have the same results.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

Injuries: The worst part of the game

Falcons head coach Mike Smith told reporters Wednesday that QB Matt Ryan (toe) and RB Michael Turner (ankle) both did not practice today, but that the team hopes to get them on the practice field before the end of the week.  This does not bode well for their status for Sunday, but is definitely good news for the New York Jets.

Atlanta, which has dropped two straight without Ryan and Turner, has been riddled by injuries all year.   The team has already shelved WR Brian Finneran, DT Peria Jerry, S William Moore, and CB Brian Williams for the season.  Now a team coming off an eleven-win season that was expected to challenge New Orleans for the NFC South crown, has found themselves fighting to save their season at 6-7, with their playoff dreams on life support.

Despite all the injuries, veteran TE Tony Gonzalez says the Falcons aren’t feeling sorry for themselves.  “I think the morale is great,” said Gonzalez.  “I’ve never been a part of a situation like this with all these players going down especially key players.  The offensive line was just decimated.  Especially at this time of year, it was unfortunate for us the way things turned out because I thought we were on a good roll there.  I though for sure we’d be able to make the playoffs.  That’s how that goes.  Players go down.  It’s the NFL.  You’re going to get hurt.  You try to limit that, but unfortunately it didn’t go that way for us this year.  The morale is still there.”

As for the New York Jets, who have had their own fair share of season-ending injuries this season, OT Robert Turner (knee) was today’s only scratch from practice.

DE Shaun Ellis (knee) and CB Dwight Lowery (ankle) were limited.  CB Marquice Cole (knee) and S Jim Leonhard (thumb) both participated in the full practice.

Jets add another body to practice squad

The Jets made yet another roster move this afternoon, signing OT Dan Gay to the practice squad.  Gay, a 6-foot-4, undrafted rookie out of Baylor, was signed by the San Diego Chargers in May.

Gay started 34 games on the offensive line at Baylor, where he helped the Bears rush for 2,349 yards and 29 TD in his senior season.

It’s been a while…

Sunday will mark the first time the Jets have hosted the Falcons in 11 seasons.   The last time Atlanta traveled to the Meadowlands was October 25, 1998.   Led by 101 rushing yards from Curtis Martin and two touchdowns from Vinny Testaverde, New York rolled to an emphatic, 28-3 victory.

Hunter may be the future at right tackle

Is the replacement for Damien Woody already on the Jets roster?  It’s quite possible according to Tony Pauline of SI.com/TFYDraftInsiders.com.  Sources close to the situation told Pauline the Jets coaching staff really likes offensive tackle Wayne Hunter and feel he could be a competent replacement for Damien Woody in the near future.  Hunter has seen extensive action this season in short yardage situations and the team feels he’s able to handle the fulltime duties of a starter.  The organization is unlikely to cut Woody after the season but word is the eleven year vet, who has one year remaining on his contract, may hang up his cleats after the season.

Stat of the day

Thomas Jones scored both of the Jets’ touchdowns in their 26-3 win Sunday in Tampa. The 31-year old has scored at least 10 rushing TD in each of the last two seasons, a feat he never accomplished while in his 20s.  According to Elias, only two other players in league history have had more than one season of 10 or more rushing touchdowns in their 30s after not having any prior to that: John Riggins and Otis Anderson.

Jets to bundle up for charity on Sunday

The Jets, in conjunction with A-1 First Class Moving and Storage, are holding their annual coat drive Sunday to benefit Jersey Cares.   Fans are encouraged to bring new or gently used coats that will be collected at all gates upon entering the stadium Sunday.

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