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Jets Insider.com Monday Evening Training Camp Report

By James J. Parziale
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
August 15th, 2005
The Jets Coaches are waiting for results of tests on Harry Williams Jr's injured knee.
The Jets Coaches are waiting for results of tests on Harry Williams Jr's injured knee.
The topic has been discussed at nauseam for over six months. The analysis, reanalysis and over analysis of the same subject is enough to make your head spin like a top. Since Feb. 8 – the day Chad Pennington had shoulder surgery – all the talking heads and headlines have spewed some variation of, “How is Chad doing and will his arm be OK?”

The microanalysis of Pennington’s progress won’t stop until he takes the field Sept. 11 at Kansas City. If every throw he makes during practice is studied like a hieroglyphic, imagine what his first preseason game will be like Friday against the Vikings. But maybe when the dust has settled and the arm watch subsides, the peripheral questions can finally be addressed.

How is Pennington adjusting to the new offense? What reads is he making? Are they correct? How is the synergy between Pennington and his receivers?

Those uncertainties must be answered to deal with the biggest quandary of them all: can Pennington lead the New York Jets to a championship?

Sure, it’s swell to chart the $64-million quarterback’s throws in a practice. Pennington was 17-for-22 during afternoon session and today marked the first time since camp opened he has taken part in both practices. He said that should be the regimen for the remainder of camp.

Should we applaud? Or should we take notice of the reads Pennington is making? Or how comfortable he looks in the new offense?

Backup QB Jay Fiedler seems to throw down field more frequently and effectively in practices than Pennington. Is that because of Pennington’s shoulder or because Fielder has a better arm? Pennington has never thrown a good deep-ball, so why should he be expected to miraculously do so now.

Head coach Herman Edwards was asked when Pennington will begin to throw the ball further in practice and seemed exasperated.

“Most of us when we say airing it out we think he’s going to throw the ball 60 yards down the field. That’s not vertical passing; it’s really not,” Edwards said. “Most people think that the ball has to travel 50 yards down the field and that’s not necessarily so.”

The new offense is based on an up the field passing attack; contrary to last year when it was a more “east-to-west” attack, Edwards said.

“I think we all get into this conception that every time he goes back, we worried about him throwing a deep pass. Well that’s not it at all. We have a variety of passes where you can throw the ball up the seams and you’re going north or south more than east or west,” Edwards said.

Edwards has to deflect attention from Pennington’s weak arm because he can’t outwardly bash his starting quarterback. However, Pennington has under thrown deep balls – he did so twice today – and it likely has nothing to do with his shoulder having much, if any, soreness. Earlier in training camp Pennington said this was the first time in about three years he hadn’t had any major discomfort in his shoulder.

Pennington had three different offensive coordinators at Marshall and studied five different offenses. This is the third offense he is learning with the Jets under a third coordinator. Today Pennington said he wants to utilize the remaining 17 practices to perfect his technique in the new offense.

“I feel normal again. I need every practice and all the reps I can get,” he said.

And Pennington needs the reps. In addition to playing catch-up, he simply does not look as comfortable and Fiedler – opting for short passes and dump-offs. At times the Paul Hackett era flashes before one’s eyes while watching Pennington throw. Pennington needs to feel more comfortable and then maybe his check-downs and reads will be different.

“I’m excited about the challenge of trying to learn this offense,” said Pennington, who has watched tapes of Hall of Famer John Elway and Tom Brady of the two-time defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots, who the Jets are still chasing. “I’ve been in an offense for four years and I’ve had to change a few things and learn to throw a few different types of balls.”

Pennington’s first two weeks of camp during which he threw just once a day made up for missing the OTAs, he explained. He has been coddled because of his shoulder but now must make up the time he missed.

“I feel normal again. I need every practice and all the reps I can get,” he said.

So when Pennington sees live action on Friday for the first time since Jan. 15 all eyes should be focused on where he’s throwing and how he’s throwing, which at this point has less to do with his shoulder than his decision-making. If the Jets offense is truly rebuilt the way so many around the team have proclaimed, it starts with No. 10.

“I hate missing practice. I’m happy to go through two practices a day and cross that barrier,” Pennington said. “Now I’m looking forward to [getting over] the next hump and that’s digesting this offense.”

Pennington’s status as a golden boy will also take a hit if he can not succeed this season. His only overwhelming year statistically was in 2002 after he took over for Vinny Testeverde and threw for 22 touchdown and six interceptions. The Jets blasted the Colts in the playoffs before going out to the Raiders in Oakland.

Last season Pennington missed time because of the torn rotator cuff, and also led the Jets to the Divisional round against the Steelers. If Doug Brien does his job then questioning whether Pennington can lead this team deeper into the playoffs isn’t an issue. But Brien missed two kicks and it’s time for Pennington to step up to the expectations the 2005 Jets have on them.

“My vacation time is over. It’s time to get ready for [the Chiefs on] Sept. 11,” Pennington said. “I’m doing all the necessary things mentally and physically with my feet, not worrying about my arm.”

The curtain opens Friday.

INSIDER TIDBITS

-Rookie Harry Williams Jr., who is having a terrific camp and is vying for the fifth wide receiver slot, injured his right knee during practice. He dived and made a dazzling catch on the far sideline but was sandwiched between CB David Barrett and FS Eric Coleman when he landed. He is being examined this evening and the severity of the injury should be know shortly.

-Rookie safety Kerry Rhodes continued to keep his name in the running for starter at strong safety. Rhodes intercepted QB Jay Fiedler today.

-Fielder fumbled one snap and fell twice today after backing up from center. Rookie RB Cedric Houston landed on the fumble.

INJURY REPORT

LB Eric Barton was absent from today’s afternoon session as was S Andre Maddox. No word on what is ailing Maddox. As mentioned above, Harry Williams Jr.’s status will be announced as soon as test results are known.

-LB Eric Barton (knee tendonitis): day-to-day
-CB Ty Law (foot): out
-WR Jonathan Carter (hamstring): day-to-day
-LB Darrell McClover (ankle): out
-FB Jerald Sowell (ribs): day-to-day

The Jets again have two sessions tomorrow in the morning and afternoon. Log on to Jets Insider .com often for all the latest at Hofstra!

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