With Curtis Martin injured knee, new addition Derrick Blaylock may get more playing time this Sunday against Jacksonville. (JetsInsider.com Photo)
Chad Pennington remembers buying Byron Leftwich’s first meal while the two were at Marshall University. The two went to McDonalds, and Pennington shelled out for a quarter-pounder. The two quarterbacks have upgraded their cuisine – and paychecks – since, and now don’t even have to cover the tab.
“Most of the time we put it on our agent’s bill,” said Pennington, who still talks to Leftwich once a week.
Besides dining, a lot has changed since Marshall, and now the two are starting quarterbacks in the NFL. When Leftwich reflects on what makes him a successful quarterback, he credits Pennington.
“He taught me how to prepare,” said Leftwich, who backed up Pennington for two seasons at Marshall. “He works so hard during the week.”
Since leaving the Thundering Herd, Pennington has learned a thing or two from his understudy, like playing the second half of last season with an injured shoulder.
“He’s the best I’ve seen at taking and injury and not letting it be a distraction,” Pennington said.
When Pennington tore his rotator cuff against Buffalo last year, he turned to Leftwich – the seventh overall selection in the 2003 draft by the Jaguars – for advice. He learned to take pain not let it get inside his head, saying he was his own therapist. Pennington first noticed it when the two were at Marshall.
“I never saw one wince,” Pennington said. “He still had that same blank look on his face.”
Pennington’s feet have been to the fire since training camp started, and his shoulder’s durability is still a question after some of his throws last week resembled punts. Head coach Herm Edwards, a cornerback in his playing days, is constantly backpedaling in defense of his quarterback; stressing Pennington is still making up ground after his February shoulder surgery.
“The guy played down the stretch last season with one arm,” Edwards said, who reiterated how much time Pennington missed in the off-season. “I think he’s resilient and he’s very tough.”
Leftwich said the scrutiny Pennington has gone through this season is overblown.
“He lives in New York,” the third-year quarterback said. “When you play there everything gets magnified. Every quarterback in the League has to deal with [scrutiny].”
Leftwich and Pennington both had successful careers at Marshall. Pennington threw 55 touchdowns in six years, while Leftwich threw 31 in three seasons. On Sunday, both quarterbacks will oppose staunch defenses, but Pennington will be going up against a squad that held the vaunted Colts offense – which scored over 500 points last season – a touchdown and a field goal.
“It’s been impressive to see what they’ve done the last two weeks,” Pennington said. “They are very fast and physical. When they play, they set the tempo.”
MARTIN STILL A QUESTION
Curtis Martin’s knee reportedly has no major damage, and yesterday’s MRI came back negative, so his status is in limbo for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. So when will we know?
It may not be until 1 p.m. on Sunday since Martin is day-to-day and listed as questionable on the injury report. He will not practice today, and Edwards will take a wait-and-see approach for the rest of the week.
“If he feels like he can help the team win he’ll play,” Edwards said. “He won’t put the football team in jeopardy.”
Martin has started 109 consecutive regular season games in addition to seven playoff games with a multitude of injuries. In 2000, he played the entire season with a torn ligament in his left knee. Two sprained ankles in 2002 couldn’t sideline Martin, either.
“People can talk about mental toughness,” QB Chad Pennington said, “but Curtis exhibits mental toughness.”
Envisioning Martin on the bench isn’t easy, but if he can’t play, or is limited, backup Derrick Blaylock is ready to carry the load. Last year he stepped in for Priest Holmes in Kansas City, and he carried the ball 33 times for a 186 yards against the Saints.
If ever a moment to garner playing time existed, it’s now. Blaylock said he harbors no animosity about carrying the ball twice in the first two games.
“The main thing to do is to win,” Blaylock said. “I’m not a guy who will be mad if I don’t get the ball.”
A little improv. Chad Pennington’s ability to absorb information during practices is his forte, but in Sunday’s win over the Dolphins, he and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger did a little improvisation.
When the Jets marched down the field for the game-saving touchdown drive, Heimerdinger and Pennington called plays not practiced during the week. It was efficient, as Pennington completed all seven of his passes, including the one-yard touchdown that capped the drive and the scoring in the Jets 17-7 win over the Dolphins.
“Mike called all those plays,” head coach Herman Edwards said, “but we didn’t practice them all week.”
Pennington, as he often does, was being good when he had to be. Before the drive, he was just 12 of 23 for the game. And when the Jets needed him most, he came up big. But it was proof that coach and pupil are starting to get in rhythm.
Edwards likened the offense’s transition to Heimerdinger last season, when Donnie Henderson took the reigns on defense. It takes time to gel.
“He’s had two regular season games with these guys,” Edwards said. “It’s no different than Donnie last season. It’s an adjustment he made smooth…he gives them an opportunity to speak up.”
-Chad Pennington’s 190 yards against the Dolphins moved him into fifth place on the all-time passing yardage list with 8,545, ahead of Boomer Esiason (8,478).
-The jets defense is leading the AFC in third down conversion percentage, allowing just 33 percent.
-The Jaguars are 3-2 all-time against the Jets and have won three of the last four regular season games. The Jets 34-24 victory in the 1998 Divisional Playoff was the only post-season meeting.
-The Jaguars have not turned the ball over this season.
FAN CHATS WITH MARK CANNIZZARO AND KEVIN MAWAE: Be sure to log on to Jets Insider.com tonight (Weds) at 8:15 PM for a live online fan chat session with NY Post/Jets Insider.com writer Mark Cannizzaro who will fill you in on all latest NY Jets news and rumors leading up the the Jets/Jaguars matchup including the status of RB Curtis Martin and S Erik Coleman.
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-DE Trevor Johnson (concussion): doubtful
-FB B.J. Askew (ankle): doubtful
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): questionable
-FB Jerald Sowell (ankle): questionable
-S Erik Coleman (thumb): questionable
-QB Byron Leftwich (hamstring): probable
The Jets return to practice tomorrow and then have a walk-through on Friday. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest news leading up to the Jets – Jaguars matchup this Sunday