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Chad's Still The One

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Insider.com Head Writer
August 4th, 2006
If you ask Chad Pennington or almost anyone else, he's still the #1 QB on the Jets. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
If you ask Chad Pennington or almost anyone else, he's still the #1 QB on the Jets. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
We don't want to use the word "landslide'' quite yet, but there are almost enough returns in on this so-called quarterback competition the Jets have been conducting to indicate Chad Pennington will be taking snaps from center on Sept. 10 in Tennessee.

Pennington has clearly been the best of the four quarterbacks competing in this training camp for Eric Mangini and his staff, though no one is ready to anoint anyone quite yet.

There was a report in a local paper the other day saying that a decision has already been made _ that Pennington is the starter.

Surely, in some people's minds inside Weeb Ewbank Hall they've seen what we've all seen in practice and that's Pennington performing better than everyone else. And surely, Pennington is the odds-on favorite.

But realistically, Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer cannot name their starter without seeing him perform in game conditions.

Pennington needs to bring it to the first two preseason games, in Tampa on Friday night and then in Washington on Aug. 19, and then he'll be named the starter.

Patrick Ramsey, whose arm is clearly stronger than Pennington's, has looked consistently inconsistent through the first week of camp. His flaws have come through in a most glaring way during some of the adversity-driven two-minute drill and red zone sessions Mangini has been conducting.

It's in those areas where Pennington has stood out most head-and-shoulder above Ramsey.

Rookie Kellen Clemens has been impressive at times, but he's not ready to start on a team that, despite what the prognosticators have to say, has aspirations of contending in the AFC East this season.

Brooks Bollinger has also has his moments, but is not starting caliber.

Mangini insisted this week, "I have not made my mind up yet.''

Pennington has been cautiously confident about his status.

"Coach Mangini (while in New England) has had to coach against us when I was the quarterback and played against us when I was the quarterback,'' Pennington said. "I think he knows what I can do. I think the biggest issue is health and being able to stay healthy and durable and show that I can lead this team.

"I have enough games under my belt and enough game film for people to look at it and see my body of work.''

Pennington knows very well that his durability is the one thing in question regarding his ability to win the job. He understands that everyone is waiting to see how he reacts after getting hit.

He, too, is adamant about the fact that his second shoulder injury came on a "freak'' play on which his arm was bent back.

"A lot people don't understand the injury and how the injury happened,'' Pennington reasoned. "It wasn't a normal hit. You never see it really. It was very freakish.

"I feel very confident in how the strength and conditioning program and medical staff has prepared me as far as being durable and taking hits. I've been able to put on a few more pounds that'll help me be more durable. I really don't have any questions or concerns about that.''

Another factor in favor of Pennington is Scottenheimer. Pennington has developed quite a bond with his offensive coordinator and you can see it in the body language on the field when the two are communicating in and out of drills.

Ramsey, who's been around Schottenheimer just as long as Pennington doesn't see to have the same kind of rapport with the offensive coordinator that Pennington does.

That's a mere observation from someone who's watched most of the practices and kept a close eye on the quarterbacks.

Where that factors into any decision about who'll start is anyone's guess. But in listening to Schottenheimer describe the type of quarterback he wants during a conversation in the offseason, it seemed as if he was describing Pennington.

Schottenheimer talked about wanting the best leader amongst the quarterbacks, and Pennington is that.

Give it a couple more weeks and a couple of preseason games and the Jets will be set on their starter for the 2006 opener.

INSIDER EXTRA POINTS

An interesting bond has developed between D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, the Jets’ two first-round draft picks.

And ironically, despite playing at different schools (Ferguson at Virginia and Mangold at Ohio State) and playing different positions (tackle and center) their friendship began before the Jets brought them together on draft day.

"When we were at the Senior Bowl, the first night we were there we went out to dinner with the director,'' Mangold said. "He just grabbed us randomly, and ever since we have been hanging out. Whenever we're together we're always talking. It's been a great relationship.

"We get together on the nuances of being a rookie,'' Mangold went on. "It's been more of a comfort level to have a guy going through the exact same thing as you.’’

Magold said having Ferguson around has alleviated the pressure he might have felt if he were the only first-round pick on the roster.

“It helps having him here, because he has the same perspective going in that I do,'' Mangold said. "Everybody is trying to learn. We get in there and say, 'Hey, what were you thinking here? Hey, I was thinking that same thing.' It's nice to have that connection.''

****

Random Camp Mangini observations:

-Jets fans are going to like Tim Dwight, who’ll run through a wall to make a play. What’s un canny is this: Dwight looks eerily like Wayne Chrebet when he runs after the catch. The two are of similar size and they carry the ball and run with their chests out the same way. Dwight, however, is much faster than Chrebet.

-The Jets have had a couple of young receivers flash. Rookie draft pick Brad Smith, the converted quarterback from Missouri, has shown very good hands and uncanny athletic ability. He caught a deflected Pennington TD pass at the end of a two-minute drill while lying on his back.

-Mangini’s practices are fun to watch because they really keep your attention. His offense/defense one-on-one tackling drill is great theater. So, too, are his situational drills on two-minute and red zone.

-Mangini has taken a page right out of Bill Belichick’s book by using loud music during situational drills to simulate crowd noise and make the players use hand signals to communicate.

LISTEN TO MARK CANNIZZARO EVERY SUNDAY MORNING ON ESPN RADIO

Be sure to check out Mark Cannizaro's new radio show on 1050AM ESPN Radio NY every Sunday morning from 8-10AM. There will be plenty of talk on the Jets and the entire world of sports!

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