Crisis Mode In Jetland
By Mark Cannizzaro
JetsInsider.com Head Writer
September 30th, 2005
Their franchise quarterback, Chad Pennington, is out for the season. His backup, Jay Fiedler, is also out indefinitely. Both have shoulder injuries.
Their offensive line was been playing poorly to begin with through three games this season (how do you think Pennington got hurt?).
Their confidence and psyche have to be a wreck as the 1-2 Jets stagger to Baltimore, where the Ravens are coming off a bitter bye week of practices after their disappointing 0-2 start.
Are the Jets done?
In terms of contending for a Super Bowl? Yes.
In terms of squeaking into the playoffs? Probably, but not definitively.
In terms of being able to beat the Ravens? Not at all.
Let's remember two things entering this week's game:
Firstly, the Jets were playing like crap before Pennington went down. This wasn't an offensive juggernaut with Pennington in the lineup with his recovering right shoulder, so how much worse can it get?
Secondly, the Ravens are mired in troubles of their own. With their starting QB, Kyle Boller, out with a toe injury, Anthony Wright is the starter and he hasn't exactly moved the Baltimore offense up and down the field.
The Ravens are as offensively-challenged as the Jets, having managed only two offensive TDs in the first two games. Their workhorse RB, Jamal Lewis, is averaging 2.2 yards per carry. Here's a guarantee: If the Jets keep Lewis to that average this week they'll win the game.
The Jets' defense, meanwhile, has tightened up considerably since the opening week debacle in Kansas City.
The absolute key for the Jets is surviving these next three games _ at Baltimore, home against Tampa Bay and at Buffalo. None of those three teams are offensive powerhouses, meaning even with a close-to-the-vest low-scoring offense the Jets have a chance in every game.
The Jets' confidence without their top two quarterbacks is shaky and needs a boost. A win over the Ravens, or in a bigger picture, wins in two of these next three games will buoy their hopes.
"I think once we play this week, we'll find our identity as a team,'' Herman Edwards said. "Because now we're playing with Brooksie "(Bollinger) and everyone knows it and we go, 'OK, this is what we did.' You're positive going into this game, and you're excited.''
The obvious focus to this game is Bollinger, the Jets' third-stringer who's pressed into duty. He's played in 19 NFL plays and thrown nine passes.
Vinny Testaverde, who's in his 18th season, is waiting in the wings in case Bollinger doesn't work out. You've got to figure as desperate as the Jets are to steal this game in Baltimore, Bollinger will be on a relatively short leash.
Ravens' head coach Brian Billick, for one, is not buying into the poor little Brooks Bollinger trap.
"I know who Wally Pipp is,'' Billick said. "So you're always worried that guy that comes in turns out to be a great one. We'll try not to let that happen on our watch. We know a lot about Brooks. He's a very capable quarterback. The first thing you do is don't underestimate him. Don't assume anything.''
Billick predicted the Ravens will "see a heavy dose of Curtis Martin.''
Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis joked that anyone could quarterback the Jets this week, saying, "How hard is it to go back and hand the ball off to Curtis Martin? You're talking about the league's leading rusher. This game is about their offensive line their great running game.''
It, too, is very much about Bollinger, who's the ultimate underdog as an undersized quarterback going up against one of the most feared defenses in the league, not to mention underachieving through two games at 0-2.
Bollinger, who's not afraid, which is one of his true virtues, is relishing this chance and, at the same time, bracing for that Baltimore defense. He, too, is trying to stay in the moment.
"Anytime you get a chance to play in this league, especially a guy in my situation, it's a tremendous opportunity for your career,'' he said. "I've been asked a million questions in the last few days, from you guys (media) and my friends about the enormous opportunity, but I'm not worried about that right now. I'm worried about Baltimore and preparing to play this game for the Jets.
"These guys in here are great football players and we have a good offense. I have to elevate my level and to perform at theirs. I'm just going to go on the track, get these guys the ball and make sure I'm on the same page.''
Edwards doesn't want Bollinger to relay on his scrambling too much for fear he'll get hurt.
"It (Bollinger's mobility) can be helpful and hopefully it's not to his detriment because you don't want to run around against these guys too much because they got a lot of speed on defense,'' he said. "They can chase you down. We just got to help him.''
Edwards' focus with the team this week has been about keeping Bollinger and the offense out of the bad situations the Ravens' defense likes to create.
"They have the ability on defense to really almost play offense because they do a good job of taking the ball away, putting pressure on you,'' Edwards said. "They're very aggressive on defense. You can't turn the ball over against these guys.''
Particularly with the likes of Lewis and Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed prowling the other side of the line of scrimmage.
"He needs to know where No. 20 (Reed) is at,'' Edwards said. "Especially if you throw the ball down the field over 15 yards, you need to know where 20 is at. He's a ball hawk. The other guy, 52 (Lewis), if I was (Bollinger), I'd kind of figure out where 52's at. If not, he could be sitting in your lap.''
Bollinger has seemed unfazed all week about what faces him. He seems more energized by the opportunity.
"I'm not the biggest. I'm not the fastest. I don't have the biggest arm,'' Bollinger said. "But I've always enjoyed being the underdog and, boy, do we have a little bit of one this week. I like being in that role. Not everybody's the first-round pick that is going to start a bunch of games regardless of the team's situation. When you're a sixth rounder and a third string, you've got to make the most of your opportunities.
"I definitely don't think anyone's expectations for me are going to be too high for me to do anything,'' he went on. "I don't really care if they think I'm great or awful. It doesn't make a difference. Either way, I'm trying to get the ball down the field and beat them.''