The Jets secondary will have their hands full containing Panthers WR Steve Smith this Sunday.
The last time Jets QB Brooks Bollinger started a game, the Jets handcuffed him and fell to the Baltimore Ravens, 13-3 on Oct. 2. After that game, QB Vinny Testaverde took over but Bollinger gets a second chance this week as he was named the starter against the Carolina Panthers (6-2) on Sunday.
At 2-6, the Jets are a long shot to make the playoffs but in a weak AFC East, nothing is impossible.
“It’s our job to go out there, play hard and play focused and play as if we’re playing in the playoffs,” RB Curtis Martin said “Anytime you’re not doing that, you don’t need to be in there playing.”
Bollinger looked good last week after replacing the injured Testaverde in the second half against San Diego and almost led the Jets to a victory before losing, 31-26.
“I think it gives him confidence, but more important, it gives us confidence,” Martin said of Bollinger’s performance against the Chargers. “We’ve seen Brooks play before but I think that was the best he’s played, at least in my eyes, since he’s been here. He has matured, gotten better and we’re ready. He’s our leader for right now so we expect him to get the job done just like we expected Chad (Pennington), Jay (Fiedler) or anyone else.”
Bollinger talked about how important it is to have his teammates confidence. “You need everybody doing what they’re supposed to be doing and guys have to really trust that the guy next to them is going to do their job,” Bollinger said. “That’s everything to me and the only way to get that is to go out and do that, help these guys get confidence in me.”
Bollinger’s task will be to provide a boost to an offense that ranks 30th in the NFL averaging 246 yards of total offense per game and 28th in the league with 14.8 points per game. Unlike last time when Bollinger was replaced after the Ravens game, Edwards said Bollinger will be the quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Earlier this week, Bollinger was asked what he feels the difference is from the Ravens game to now. “Just a little more experience,” Bollinger said. “The comfort level, the guys being more comfortable with me in there. I haven’t played that much but it’s a different situation than in Baltimore.”
Edwards has also seen improvement from Bollinger. “I think since then, he’s gotten better,” Edwards said. “And the guys around him have gotten better too, not just the quarter, the guys around him have played better. The offensive line I thought played better last week than they did the previous week, and that was good. If we can keep building on that, we’ve got a shot.”
Bollinger did launch a couple deep balls last week and the coaching staff won’t be afraid to call those plays again. “He can throw a good deep ball,” Edwards said. “He always has been able to do that. He’s been a good deep ball thrower. Even in practice, that’s the thing that first stood out; he had a very good touch on the deep ball.”
On Monday, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger spoke to the media and one of the topics he addressed was Bollinger’s footwork. “We got to break an old habit that he’s too short in his drops,” Heimerdinger said. “It’s something we’ve been working on. Under fire it goes back to his old way.”
“The footwork is such an important thing, you just have to make some extra time to try and get that stuff down,” Bollinger said.
C Pete Kendall has liked what he’s seen from Bollinger and says he will get better with time. “He manages the game well. I think the longer he’s at QB, and the more opportunities he has, the better he’s going to play,” Kendall said.
Edwards was asked what he can take from Bollinger being successful in college at the University of Wisconsin and use it to his advantage in the pros. “He was a winner, played in a big-time college program,” Edwards said. “He had the ability to move the ball, to move the team. And he can run them. He’s not in the Michael Vick class now of running the ball. I think you look at the guys we have, so it looks like that. You talk about Vinny and Chad; they are not the swiftest guys in the world, so Brooks to us is our Michael Vick I guess. He has a way to move around in the pocket. He can run a little bit…But that’s also a concern because you don’t want that guy running around too much, because they can get hit.”
Bollinger and the rest of the Jets offense will have to contend with a very physical Panthers defense. The Panthers front four dominated the Bucs last week. Ends Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers each had two sacks and Rucker had a forced fumble and fumble recovery. “They’re probably the two most impressive ones in the league,” Martin said.
CB Chris Gamble has three interceptions but the Panthers are 26th in passing yards allowed per game (231.8 ypg). They are number one in rushing yards allowed per game (74).
The Jets defense has struggled this season and on Monday instead of watching film like they normally do, defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson had what he called a “powwow” with his defensive unit to discuss what was going wrong. Many of the players were vocal with Henderson expressing that they felt he wasn’t the same aggressive play caller that made the Jets defense successful last season.
“We’re still a confident group and nothing has changed about that,” CB David Barrett said. “Sometimes people are out of place when they should be where they need to be at. We just need to be focused, basically. Just focus on what we have to do on hand and just get it done.”
Barrett and the defense will have their hands full trying to cover WR Steve Smith, who has 55 catches for 903 yards (16.4 average) and nine touchdowns. “He is very strong, very elusive, has great ball skills,” Edwards said. “He’s a guy about 5’9, you see him in the red zone they throw him fades, he jumps over guys and catches it. That’s what we try and do.”
In a conference call with the New York media earlier this week, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme spoke about his teammate. “He comes to work every day, he works so hard, he’s making plays for us. He is our go-to-guy,” Delhomme said.
Smith can score from anywhere on the field. “They just move him around,” Edwards said when asked what the Panthers do to get him the ball. “They move him outside, he’s in the slot sometimes. They run him motion, find different ways to get him the ball. But he’s a big play guy, he makes big plays.”
If the Jets are going to have a shot to win, they need to double team Smith and make someone else beat them.
RB Stephen Davis has 11 touchdowns but not a lot of yards. The Panthers are 31st in the league in rushing average (3.0 yards per carry).
QB Jake Delhomme manages the game well. He has 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The offensive line has only given up 12 sacks this year. Delhomme said he is not looking at the Jets as a 2-6 team. “One thing you notice is how extremely fast their defense is,” Delhomme said. “You can certainly talk about (John) Abraham and (Shaun) Ellis and their LB and I have the utmost respect for someone like Ty Law…They’re a dangerous team. I know their defense, they’re loaded.”
Delhomme talked about how the Panthers defense has been a help to the offense. “Certainly they’ve done a good job for us, but that was expected,” Delhomme said. “We really believe as an organization, Coach Fox, if you have a strong defense they can keep you in every game. We feel we have a very good defense and offensively we’ve done some good things. I’m proud of the fact we’re putting up some points so far this year, that’s always been nice. It’s a three-way prong: it’s special teams, offense, and defense. When one end doesn’t hold up there end of the bargain we lose as a team.”
Barrett said it’s important for the defense to play the full 60 minutes and not just start playing better in the second half. “We have to play like that at the beginning of the game,” Barrett said. “We can’t wait until the end of the game, come out and expect to win, we can’t do that in this league.”
Edwards gave his key for the Jets defense. “If you get them in third-and-long, play them in front of the chains, make them throw it and tackle them,” Edwards said. “We’ve done it a couple times where we missed a tackle and they got away and scored.”
THREE THINGS THE JETS NEED TO DO TO WIN:
The offensive line’s struggles is just one of the many reasons the Jets have lost this season. They have given up 28 sacks and if Bollinger is going to have success he will need time to throw the ball.
LIMIT CAROLINA IN THE RED ZONE
Carolina is one of the top teams when they get in the red zone. “We got to do a good job of two things; don’t let them get down there and if they do get down there hold them to field goals,” Edwards said.
LET BROOKS USE HIS LEGS
Unlike the immobile Vinny Testaverde, Bollinger is able to run when a play breaks down.
STEVE SMITH VS. TY LAW
CB Ty Law was badly burned by RB LaDainian Tomlinson on a touchdown last week. Law will need to have tight coverage on Smith and the help of his teammates in covering him if the Jets hope to contain the explosive Smith.
The Jets will look better with Bollinger this week but Carolina’s offense is too tough and the offensive line still has too many questions to stop the Panthers defensive line:
-The Jets hold a 2-1 lead in the all-time series with the Jets winning, 13-12 at Carolina on Oct. 28, 2001.
Rookie CB Justin Miller did not have a good training camp and early part of the regular season. But lately, Miller has been playing well and seeing some time rotating at the cornerback position. This season, Miller has 28 kickoff returns for 781 yards (27.9 average) and a long of 50. “If he just follows the wedge, he’s got a chance to go,” Edwards said. “ It’s real hard to tackle him once he gets going. He’s got great anticipation, he’s a stronger runner too.”
-JOHN FOX AND HERMAN EDWARDS SD STATE CONNECTION
Fox and Edwards were collegiate teammates at San Diego State in 1976 in the same defensive backfield. Edwards at cornerback and Fox at safey. The two remain close friends.
-FIEDLER STILL NOT READY
Edwards updated the media on QB Jay Fiedler’s status: “He’s running and stuff. He’s throwing the ball a little bit better, but he’s not ready to go by any stretch of the imagination at this point.”
-TE Chris Baker had surgery on his broken fibula this week.
-RB Derrick Blaylock (ankle): Out
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): Out
-S Oliver Celestin (knee): Questionable
-LB Kenyatta Wright (ankle/knee): Questionable
-WR Harry Williams, Jr. (knee): Questionable
-QB Vinny Testaverde (calf): Probable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): Probable
-WR Justin McCareins (Achilles): Probable
-FB B.J. Askew (hamstring): Probable
-WR Lavernues Coles (rib): Probable
-C Pete Kendall (back Probable
-G Brandon Moore (pectoral Probable
-LB Victor Hobson (groin): Probable
Gametime is 4:05 p.m. and local TV is CBS-2. Radio is ESPN 1050 AM and WABC 770 AM. Check back to Jets Insider.com for a full recap!