Jets 38 -Eagles 27
On a night where intrigue swirled around a reclamation project, the rookie quarterback slinging it for the home team stole the show in a cameo role, as the Jets downed the Eagles 38-27.
In his sole series, Mark Sanchez fired five passes without suffering an incompletion, eventually finding a streaking Jerricho Cotchery in stride down the sideline for an electrifying touchdown. “A couple of plays before that, I hit Dustin [Keller] down the middle,” said Sanchez, referring to his twenty-seven yard strike to the tight-end that set-up the touchdown. “I faked a little bit to the middle and the safety thought I was going down the middle and J-Co [Cotchery] had a great route again. The timing was perfect.”
It may have been the only truly perfect aspect of the night for the Jets, their defense pretty clearly torched.
Yet for seven plays early in the contest, it couldn’t get rosier for Rex Ryan’s crew. Sanchez was precise, protecting the ball, yet still able to take shots on a vertical plane. He demonstrated patience with a three yard dump to Keller near midfield, and also found Washington on the offense’s initial play for a gain of two. But the freshman made his mark, and hyped up the Meadowlands, with his intermediate missiles to Keller and Cotchery. “It’s something we’ve worked at a lot”, said Keller, referring to his team scoring on the first drive. “We definitely wanted to come out in that first series since we were only playing one and set the tone for the other guys, because this is huge for them,” Keller continued, acknowledging the importance of this game for his teammates on the fringes, scraping for a roster spot.
Keller’s excellence set the stage for Cotchery, who hit pay-dirt. “It was a play where they were soft in coverage and Sanchez did a good job of holding the safety and hitting me in the hole, making a very accurate throw,” said Cotchery, when asked about his six point reception. If Sanchez can be that dangerous of a passer consistently, the Jets offense will be far better than expected.
Meanwhile, defensively, the news wasn’t as positive for New York. Plagued by penalties and a swiss-cheese secondary, especially on third down, the unit struggled to stop the Eagles attack. Despite plainly blowing a few easy throws, Kevin Kolb still chalked up a 93.2 passer rating, racking up one touchdown pass and avoiding any turnovers. “We were fortunate to get a couple of penalties there and then we were able to punch it in,” said Kolb. “For the whole half, I felt we were in pretty good rhythm.”
Of particular concern was the play of Lito Sheppard, who was flagged down-field for a crippling pass interference penalty on the game’s first drive. It was Sheppard’s second straight shaky preseason performance, after being attacked vigorously by the Giants in week three. Perhaps sensing an opportunity, Dwight Lowery had a strong game, picking off an under-thrown Michael Vick pass in the end-zone, succeeding despite interference from Jeremy Maclin. “Just from watching film, this past week, in the red area, most of the teams in this league… they like to take a shot,” said Lowery, describing the preparation that helped him make the pick. “Before the snap, I saw Vick looking in my direction,” continued the cerebral second-year corner. “Last year, I was in a similar position, Ted Ginn pushed off me to get open. [This time] I boxed him [Maclin] out, like I was playing basketball.”
The first half run defense also left much to be desired, gashed by Eldra Buckley for thirty-three yards and a 4.7 average. The results weren’t all a drag, however. Vernon Gholston, perhaps the defense’s top question mark, mauled Kolb for a sack on the Eagles’ second drive, showing an impressive burst to the quarterback. Gholston though, was very quiet for the rest of the evening.
Danny Woodhead, the fourth-string running back fighting for a roster spot, was unquestionably the most productive player on the field for either team. With Shonn Greene sidelined, Woodhead capitalized on his carries to the fullest, running wild on a porous Eagles interior defense. Woodhead garnered one hundred fifty eight yards on eighteen carries, scurrying into the end-zone for two scores. His longest run was a fifty-five yard touchdown jaunt, ending with him sprawled just past the goal-line. “I’m not very tall, not very heavy,” said Woodhead in the locker-room after the game. “I just try to use my speed, quickness, and vision… I just want to to go out there and help the team… I was confident before this game.” Woodhead wasn’t in a rush to make any declarative statements following his breakout performance, claiming it to be in, “God’s hands”, regarding whether or not he had done enough to be a suit up in the regular season for the Jets, or another team. He also claimed not to be especially motivated by Greene’s absence. “Not really. I just wanted to come out and help the team.”
Michael Vick was relegated to near-afterthought. Vigorously booed every time he took the field in the first half, the svelte scrambler was employed in a collection of wildcat packages in the first half, before settling back into a traditional drop-back mode in the second. He looked rusty at times, still feeling for those old instincts. Vick displayed flashes of that legendary escapability that defined his truncated tenure with the Falcons, but he was often caught behind the line of scrimmage, crunched by defenders and coughing up the ball. These circumstances presented themselves twice, as he was dropped by Jamaal Westerman for a loss of twenty-two deep in Eagles territory, managing to recover the loose ball. “We’re all playing hard together, and he just turned into me,” said Westerman. Vick was then hammered by Marques Murrell while driving for points, this time losing his fumble. Vick was accurate, completing seven of eleven passes, and Andy Reid focused on the positives. “I saw a lot to like,” said Reid after the game. “I’m sure he’ll be a little sore tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, the man dubbed somewhat derisively as Mr. August by Jon Gruden came up with another eye-popping preseason performance. David Clowney caught two balls for one hundred eight yards. His seventy-three yard touchdown catch was launched from the right-arm of Erik Ainge, who took most of the game’s snaps. Ainge put up a strong showing, going ten of seventeen with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Aundrae Allison enjoyed a productive game on special teams, averaging twenty seven yards on three returns.
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