It's time for the Jets offensive line to step up against the feisty Tampa Bay defense this Sunday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The Monday before Vinny Testaverde signed with the Jets, WR Wayne Chrebet was at his house. The two have remained close friends and often get their kids together. “I was thinking how the offense was going,” Chrebet said. “I said, ‘Vinny, this is perfect for you. You just drop back there and throw it to the open guy. Just like we played it back in the day.’ At that point we were just hoping. Then it became a reality…I know what he brings to the team, but selfishly, he’s a very good friend of mine and it’s good to have him back in here. We have Laveranues (Coles) back, Vinny back, this is Christmas for me.”
Chrebet is hoping to be on the end of a bunch of Testaverde passes come Sunday when the Jets host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chrebet has only caught seven passes for 68 yards this season. “We have great chemistry out there,” Chrebet said. “We always have since he first got here. It’s so apparent in the couple practices that we’ve had together; hopefully it carries over to the game. I hope that I’m one of those receivers that make him as comfortable as possible. When we’re in the game get him some confidence and get him some catches to get him back in the flow of it.”
It won’t be easy for the Jets going against the top-ranked defense in the NFL in the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is first in the NFL stopping the run. Jets RB Curtis Martin is battling a knee injury and has not practiced Wednesday or Thursday this week. Martin gave his assessment of how Testaverde has looked in practice. “He looks just as good and he’s throwing the ball just as well,” Martin said. “I’ve always wondered how quick a QB could come in and learn a whole new system and he’s doing a great job. I’m pretty sure he’s seen just about everything under the sun as far as a QB goes.”
While Testaverde is still in tremendous shape, he will most likely be rusty after not having been in a NFL training camp. The Jets offensive line has struggled and given up 14 sacks this season. C Kevin Mawae said the Jets won’t change anything just because it’s Testaverde behind center. “We’ll just go out there and do our pass protections,” Mawae said. “If they bring more than we can handle then it’s his job to get rid of the ball and my job, and the offensive line’s job, is to direct the pass protection in the area that we can best protect him knowing there will be times where we can’t get everybody. There are situations that we have to be on the same page and know who we’re blocking, where we’re going to, who’s got the hot reads and who’s got to get rid of the ball fast enough. But we’re not changing, or block harder because Vinny can’t run, that’s not our mentality.”
Mawae said part of the problem has been miscommunication in the offense. “When there are communication problems where the backs think the line is going one way and they go the wrong way and stuff like that, it tends to cause problems,” Mawae said. “When you have those communication problems is when you have big break downs in sacks and things like that. Sacks go along with everybody. The RB are just as responsible for protection as the offensive line, the TE are responsible for protection. They have to block a defensive guy like Simeon Rice. Everybody is responsible for it; it doesn’t just fall on the five guys up front.”
The Jets defense should be able to keep the Jets in the game. But the offensive line will need to protect Testaverde and give him time to find his receivers.
FB B.J. Askew (ankle) was downgraded from doubtful to out. LB Eric Barton (ankle) did not practice for a second straight day and remains questionable. T Jason Fabini (knee) is still probable but practiced today for the first time this week. RB Curtis Martin (knee) also remains probable but has yet to practice this week. WR Justin McCareins (back) is probable and practiced today for the first time this week.
-QB Chad Pennington (shoulder): out
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): out
-FB B.J. Askew (ankle): out
-LB Eric Barton (knee): questionable
-T Jason Fabini (knee): probable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): probable
-WR Justin McCareins (back): probable
The Jets resume practice tomorrow. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for a full Jets-Tampa Bay preview.