Brooks Bollinger can write a motivational best-seller this off-season about falling and getting up again…and again…and again. He can throw in a chapter about picking grass out of his facemask, too.
Whether it’s been a defensive lineman sacking him on a stunt, a linebacker colliding with him on a scramble, or a cornerback blindsiding him with a blitz, Bollinger has been abused by everyone and anyone on opposing defenses.
“He’s a tough guy,” coach Herman Edwards said. “I keep saying that. He takes a lot of shots. He gets hit a lot. He has to scramble sometimes for his life and he gets out.”
Bollinger has been sacked 30 times in seven games and could be confused with a stunt-double. Only once he wasn’t able to get up from the turf after a concussion forced him out of the Jets loss at Denver.
But more than the hits on the field, Bollinger has been able to absorb the hits taken away from the chalk lines. Yesterday he had the best day of any Jets quarterback this season, and was the first signal-caller since 2003 to throw for over 300 yards against a vaunted Miami defense.
It almost never came to fruition. After the Jets lost 30-3 to Carolina Bollinger’s psyche was fragile. He threw four interceptions, including three in four attempts in the fourth quarter.
This came after he was summoned from the bench in back-to-back games for a hobbled and over-the-hill Vinny Testaverde and nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Bollinger was also benched in favor of elder statesman Testaverde after a 13-3 loss to the Ravens during which the third-year quarterback was handcuffed by play-calling.
“I think I was like everyone else. I don’t know a lot when a guy has only played nine snaps,” Edwards said. “And obviously he went in there and the first couple of games it was pretty vanilla for him. We tried not to put him in harms way. We tried to bring him along in a process we felt he could gain confidence.”
And it’s come after he was tattered in the loss to Carolina. In a season that was doomed from the start for the Jets, the scrappy 6-foot quarterback buckled on his chinstrap and went back to work.
“That was a big game all of a sudden where we had a chance and some bad things happened,” Edwards said of the Carolina loss, “and it all wasn’t all on the quarterback either.
“Balls went through some guys’ hands and whatever, and we turned the ball over a whole bunch. But then I thought after that he got his feet on the ground and he started improving and he’s been improving ever since.”
He was knocked out the following week at Denver, but since has put together three eye-opening performances in four games. Against the Saints he threw for 251 yards and a touchdown, bringing the Jets to within 10 inches of victory. That’s how short K Mike Nugent’s 53-yard attempt fell in the waning seconds.
A week later, Bollinger struggled against New England. The Jets running game was bottled up, and the Patriots shifted the crosshairs to Bollinger. The Jets lost 16-3 after trailing by a field goal at halftime.
But against the inept Raiders Bollinger led a 26-10 blowout victory during which he set the single-game mark for rushing yards by a Jets quarterback. He led six scoring drives and the Jets snapped a seven-game skid.
“I think he trusts what we’re asking him to do,” Edwards said. “He’s managed the games good, he really has. He’s done a good job that way and he’s still learning.”
Yesterday’s loss overshadows Bollinger’s highlight reel moment. He completed 28-of-42 passes for two scores and wasn’t intercepted. His 327 passing-yards were a career-high and a season-high for a team who all season has longed for production from the position. The Jets (3-11) fell four incomplete passes short of their first road victory this season. Bollinger was sacked six times.
“He got hit a whole bunch and that’s what we like about the guy; the guy is tough,” Edwards said. “I think when you have a tough quarterback, [the players] that line up in the huddle with him after that has happened, they believe in the guy.”
And through the emotional roller coaster this season has been, the Jets believe in Bollinger. With Testaverde hanging it up and Fidler likely on the way out, Bollinger may have solidified a roster spot for next season behind the rehabbing Chad Pennington and the veteran backup the Jets will likely bring in to compete for the starting job.
“Do I like how he’s progressed? Absolutely,” Edwards said. “I wish we’d won more games, but we haven’t. But he’s done a good job and he’s getting better.
“I always thought he was a tough guy.”
After this season, there’s no question.
Vinny’s cameo. Vinny Testaverde is one of the sentimental favorites in the Jets locker-room, and Edwards said he will get the 19-year veteran into one of the two remaining home games. He just won’t tell anybody when.
“Just when the time is right,” Edwards said. “It’s like having a surprise party for somebody. You don’t tell them. You just kind of wait.”
Edwards said since “we don’t have an alumni game” Vinny will see game action before the season is over. Unless we have the media game against us.”
Backfield help. Derrick Blaylock should return to practice this week and will restore depth to a depleted backfield. Edwards said he doesn’t know what the rotation will be when Blaylock returns.
Worthy fill-ins. LB Barry Gardner, DTs James Reed and Lance Legree, and DE Bryan Thomas all started in place of injured regulars yesterday. Edwards said they filled in admirably.
”All of those guys I thought both the defensive linemen did a good job,” Edwards said. “They might play again this week.”
Derrick Blaylock is listed as probable for Monday night’s game against the Patriots. He likely will practice for the first time since injuring his foot against Tampa Bay on Oct. 9.
-RB Derrick Blaylock (foot)
-WR Harry Williams, Jr. (knee)
-DE Shaun Ellis (hamstring)
-DT Dewayne Robertson (thigh)
-T Scott Gragg (back)
-LB Mark Brown (neck)
Due to the longer week, the team begins preparation for the Patriots on Thursday. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest NY Jets news.