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Back To The Drawing Board
By James J. Parziale
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
August 28th, 2005
Aussie Ben Graham is now officially the Jets' punter. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Aussie Ben Graham is now officially the Jets' punter. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
So it’s been the tale of two Chads. One week Mr. Pennington looks like the quarterback who once wore No. 12 back in the day for Gang Green, and the next he’s doing his best Neil O’Donnell impersonation.

Obviously, Pennington is his own man. His own quarterback. He’s successfully taken this team to the playoffs twice and shoulders the expectation of being the best signal-caller in Jets history. But Friday’s game gave off indications that his right shoulder is rusty after not having thrown for five months.

“He has not played a lot of football since [last] season was over with,” head coach Herman Edwards said, “and it's a little bit of a new offense [that is] asking to do some things a little different.”

Pennington, who had shoulder surgery in February and did not throw a pass until July 29, was atrocious during Friday’s 15-14 loss to the Giants. He threw two red zone interceptions and his stat line was shoddier than Giants counterpart Tim Hasselbeck (9 of 17 for 85 yards and a touchdown), a journeyman starting in place of Eli Manning. Pennington was just 5-for-11 and managed just 36 yards through the air.

“He threw some bad balls he generally wouldn't throw,” Edwards said. “I've never seen him throw two interceptions in the red zone. He generally doesn't do that. He's a smart enough guy to throw it away. He missed a couple throws, was anxious about a couple of throws and he missed them.”

The Jets' fanbase breathed a collective sigh of relief after Pennington’s stellar 9 of 10 performance against the Vikings. After Friday, the red flags are up.

But Pennington, ever the perfectionist, has watched the game film twice and said he needs to work on his footwork. He likened his adjustment to a new offense to correcting a golf swing: each time you go out there it’s not going to be the same, but you have to try.

The transition from being in a conservative Paul Hackett offense to a more run-and-gun system under Mike Heimerdinger has been the biggest mental factor. On the field Pennington has had to adapt to what Edwards called a three-prong offense based on check-downs to a style that favors reads and man-to-man match-ups.

“If a turnover does happen I want it to be because of an errant throw,” Pennington said, “not because of a bad decision. There’s a difference.”

Edwards, known for his motivational tactics, simply tells Pennington to “throw the ball” and not micromanage.

“He’s so hard on himself,” Edwards said. “That’s what’s so great about him. You wish all your guys were like that.”

So when can we expect to see Pennington’s full potential?

“He’ll be better in the eight game of the season than Opening Day,” Edwards said.

As long as he’s not as bad as he was Friday, the Jets should be alright.

INSIDER TIDBITS

G’Day Mate: Rookie 31-year-old punter Ben Graham won the starting job after the Jets released Micah Knorr yesterday. Maybe Graham is feeling the heat now because he looked shaky today, capping off a blasé performance with a punt that barely got back to the line of scrimmage. Nevertheless, Edwards feels good about Graham’s consistency and the distinct advantage in the way he kicks the ball.

“For some reason every time he kicks [opponents] have trouble handling the ball,” Edwards said.

-The Jets today released LB Eric Mahl and WR Ralph Brock but added DB Aaron Francisco, who was released Monday by the Arizona Cardinals. As reported yesterday, the team waived RB/KR DeCori Birmingham, Ts Ethan Brooks Henry Tellis, WRs Eddie Jackson and Carl Kearney, P Micah Knorr, and CB Art Thomas were released. The team must release one more player by Tuesday to get to the mandatory roster number of 65 players.

-Edwards was pleased with the way T Adrian Jones handled All-pro DE Michael Strahan of the Giants. “I thought he held his own,” Edwards said.

INJURY REPORT

S Andre Maddox – the 161st selection in April’s Draft – was placed on injured reserve today. WR Harry Williams Jr. practiced today at Hofstra for the first time since injuring his knee on August 15. Williams, was expected to miss two-to-five weeks with a sprained ligament in his right knee, stretched for a pass and landed between two defenders. Today he wore a bandage on his right knee. He is expected to be the No. 5 receiver after the release of Jonathan Carter. QB Jay Fiedler, whose hand was wrapped after the loss to the Giants Friday, looked ok. DT Dewayne Robertson had a cast around his broken right hand and a bandage around his left knee. He left the field early but it is unclear whether he returned to practice; the media is allotted just 30 minutes of viewing.

-S Rashad Washington (concussion): day-to-day
-WR Harry Williams Jr. (knee): day-to-day
-DT Dewayne Robertson (hand; knee): day-to-day
-LB Darrell McClover (foot): IR
-S Andre Maddox (knee): IR
-CB Derrick Strait (groin): day-to-day
-RB Cedric Houston (shoulder): day-to-day

The Jets practice again tomorrow to get ready for their final pre-season matchup on Thursday against Philadelphia.