PHILADELPHIA, P.A. — The Jets touchdown woes are over. You may now exhale and, slowly, remove your hand from the panic button. After three games, 13 quarters, 37 offensive drives, 201 minutes, 199 plays the team’s third-string quarterback, Greg McElroy, found the rookie Terrance Ganaway six yards out for the first score of the preseason.
“Now I just want more of them,” Rex Ryan said when asked about his team ending their touchdown drought at halftime.
McElroy jumped in jubilation. Mark Sanchez, on the sidelines holding the clipboard, smiled in relief. Tim Tebow, next to Sanchez, had his hands raised to the sky from the moment the ball left the former Crimson Tide quarterback’s hands — either a sign for touchdown or a prayer to his lord.
“We were just so happy for Greg [McElroy]. He’s worked so hard. He earned it. Everyone out there — I’m real happy for them,” Tebow told CBS-2 during Thursday’s game.
The touchdown came at 8:55 in the second quarter on a 14-play, 77 yard drive that lasted over eight minutes.
That would be their last, however, as the Jets were shut out in the second half, and in return shut out in wins on the preseason, as they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 28-10, at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday.
McElroy was 5-of-6 for 33 yards and demonstrated a grasp of the offense that has yet to be seen in preseason play. The staggering number of that drive was the back-up unit converting two of three first downs and a fourth down conversation as well. On the evening he was 12-for-17 for 90 yards and 1 touchdown.
The play of running backs Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell leveled the offensive attack in the first half combined for 53 yards and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Additionally, the two had four runs of nine or more yards — the type of explosive run plays a ground and pound team expects from their backfield.
Touchdown aside, the Jets offense still had a stagnant residue of the vanilla flavor offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has been spoon-feeding everyone all preseason. They were still 5-of-13 on third downs and had seven punts and seven penalties.
Following a 58-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired in the first half, the Eagles’ third and fourth units broke through scoring 14 unanswered points. Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards found Brett Brackett for a seven-yard touchdown grab with 12:13 remaining in the game. Running back Chris Polk closed out the scoring — and the preseason — with a three-yard run up the middle with 2:33 left.
The Eagles took the lead and never looked back after Edwards completed a 31-yard pass to receiver Mardy Gilyard, taking a 14-10 lead late in the first half. Gilyard had a cup of coffee with the Jets last season before eventually getting released.
The newly acquired Jason Smith, the former number 2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft whom the Jets received in return for Wayne Hunter this week, was supposed to see only a limited amount of plays. The team expected him to get roughly 10 plays in live action just to get the former Rams’ feet wet. He logged 33 snaps in at starting left tackle on the night. It’s presumed Smith will be used predominantly as the team’s sixth lineman/jumbo tight end.
“I was proud of the way he competed, considering he attended only one meeting,” Ryan said.
On the night the offensive line unit gave up five sacks.
First round selection Quinton Coples, who made headlines for his pouting in last week’s game against the Carolina Panthers, had an impact early with one and a half sacks and one pass defended. During his post game press conference last week, Ryan said he was ‘disappointed’ by Coples’ ‘woe is me’ attitude after he was told to stay in when the veterans left the game. Against the Eagles, he played the entire game.
Their loss on against the Panthers last Sunday snapped the Jets 15th consecutive non-losing preseasons. The loss on Thursday marks the first winless Jets preseason in 1994. That team finished 6-10 — good for fifth in the AFC East. The offense, led by Boomer Esiason, was ranked 25th out of 28 teams.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum now has until tomorrow to trim the team down to the final 58 slots reserved for the team and practice squad. Ryan has 10 days to show his hand — whether this team has been pulling the legs of everyone who’s watched them or the Jets offense has yet to be cleared for takeoff.
Sanchez believes the former.
“We got some tricks for everybody. It should be fun to watch. We’re going to play an up-tempo style of football — make plays when we have to and hold on to the ball when it’s not there,” Sanchez said.