Jets third string quarterback Brooks Bollinger will likely get his first NFL start this Sunday in Baltimore. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
More than the wince Chad Pennington’s face revealed on the sideline yesterday, more than the less-than-promising self-diagnosis Jay Fiedler had after the game, and apparently more than the pending MRIs both will have later today, there is something calling out to Jets head coach Herman Edwards about who his starting quarterback will be Sunday.
“That’s my gut feeling. I could be dead wrong, but my dad used to say, trust your gut,” Edwards replied when asked if he thought third-string QB Brooks Bollinger will be his starter at Baltimore in six days.
However, Edwards has been known to, let’s say, omit a fact or two in his years with the Jets, namely last season when he withheld the fact that Pennington’s right rotator cuff was torn.
“There is a reason for everything,” he said when asked about last year.
For now, Edwards’ word is all there is. He doesn’t have to release an injury report until Wednesday. It’s convenient that T Jason Fabini’s MRI, which revealed a knee sprain, was this morning while the two quarterbacks will be later today.
Pennington, who reinjured his surgically-repaired right shoulder, and Fiedler, who “wasn’t going to be able to throw a football” after hurt his right shoulder, both were forced from the game in the third quarter of yesterday’s 26-20 overtime loss to Jacksonville.
Pennington reentered after Fiedler went out, while Bollinger sat on the sideline.
“He gave us the best chance to do what we needed to win,” Edwards said. “I had reservations [about bringing Pennington back.]”
One could deduce Pennington’s injury – which yesterday was called a shoulder strain – is more serious that originally thought since Bollinger was not brought in yesterday, but will be the starter Sunday. Pennington could have further injured the shoulder by going back in.
In any case, Edwards was adamant about Pennington riding the pine against the Ravens, but does not have a long-term prognosis.
Asked if had any information from Pennington, Edwards offered: “Not at this point. In 24 hours I’ll know.”
If there is no structural damage to the shoulder Pennington could be Bollinger’s backup Sunday, assuming the $64-million quarterback doesn’t lobby to start the game. He managed yesterday to convince Edwards to put him back under center, even with the threat of further injury.
“I always listen [to the players],” Edwards said. “I’ll take into consideration how he’s talking. I know if they are trying to hoodwink me. I know to ask the right questions.”
Since both Pennington and Fiedler are questionable for now, Bollinger was the signal-caller sidestepping questions today at Hofstra. From third-string quarterback to the man with 30 or so reporters in front of his locker is a big jump for Bollinger, who, if everything holds form, will make his first career start against one of the best defenses in the league.
“I’m going to prepare like I’m starting the game and we’ll see what happens,” the third-year quarterback from Wisconsin said.
Starting Bollinger gives the Jets nothing to lose. Even with a healthy Pennington, beating the Ravens is no easy chore. After mustering just 168 yards, turning the ball over three times, and going three-and-out five times, the Jets offense yesterday looked like a unit that needs an overhaul.
“We’re each taking our turn making mistakes,” Pennington said yesterday.
Hence Ray Lewis & Co. can smell blood in the water, whether it be with a battered quarterback or an inexperienced one. If he does start, Bollinger must be ready to deal with a vaunted Ravens defense.
“I don’t care about what I have to do as long as we more the chains and win the football game,” Bollinger said. “I need to worry about what I can control.”
Bollinger’s lone action came last season at Arizona when then-backup Quincy Carter was injured, but later returned. Bollinger completed five of nine passes for 60 yards, but explained the game can’t help him this week.
“That was a while ago, it’s not going to help me Sunday,” he said. “At the time it gave me confidence, but it’s not something that will give me an added advantage Sunday.”
Bollinger’s inexperience can swing both ways. Much like in baseball when a good hitting team faces a young pitcher for the first time, they are seeing his repertoire for the first time. There isn’t much game tape on Bollinger, and it could be the Jets only silver lining.
“Brooks is a threat to tuck it down and run for a first down,” G Pete Kendall said.
That’s something the two men above him on the depth chart are not proficient with. Bollinger’s mobility, among other things, is his best asset.
“He can move around and make some plays with his legs,” Edwards said. “He’s been looking for a chance and now he’s got it.”
But do the Jets stand any chance with him at quarterback?
Testaverde Part Deux? Edwards said his phone will probably be ringing nonstop tonight with agents inquiring about the Jets need for a quarterback. One player Edwards mentioned by name was former quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who is still looking for employment after spending last season with the Cowboys.
“There’s a lot of guys,” Edwards said of available quarterbacks. “Vinny is one. You want to figure out the state of the [Pennington and Fiedler] first.”
Testaverde was less than stellar with the Cowboys last season. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns (20-17) and had a quarterback rating of 76.4.
Despite his age (he'll be 42 in November) and inconsistent recent performance, Testaverde still has an active arm and at first glace seems to be a decent fit for Heimerdinger's offense. He's also right down the block in Oyster Bay waiting for a call.
-Another player the Jets may look at is five year veteran QB Doug Johnson who played for Heimerdinger as a backup in Tennessee last year after four previous years in Atlanta. He knows the system and is available after being let go on the final cuts by Cleveland this past summer.
-Rookie CB Justin Miller did not field punts which Edwards felt would go inside the 10, but did not give a reason. WR Justin McCareins fielded those kicks, and after Miller fumbled twice yesterday – one which led to a Jaguars touchdown – the rookie’s role could be even further reduced.
-On the Jaguars game-winning scoring drive, Byron Leftwich called an audible at the line of scrimmage yesterday and pump-faked a pass on which CB David Barrett bit on. WR Jimmy Smith went 36 yards for the winning touchdown. Leftwich said the Jets had been trying to jump routes all day.
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Despite reports by some media outlets that T Jason Fabini’s knee was blown out during yesterday’s game, an MRI revealed only a sprain to the MCL. He will be fitted with a brace and the knee will be tested at practice on Wednesday. QBs Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler’s results will be released tomorrow. Fabini will play with a knee brace. Eric Barton sprained his ankle yesterday, while FB B.J. Askew is hampered with the same injury.
-QB Chad Pennington (shoulder): MRI pending
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): MRI pending
-FB B.J. Askew (ankle): questionable
-LB Eric Barton (ankle): questionable
-DE Trevor Johnson (head): questionable
-T Jason Fabini (sprained knee): questionable
The team has tomorrow off and returns to begin preparation for the Ravens on Wednesday. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com often for Pennington/Fiedler MRI results and all the latest NY Jets news and rumors.