Jets QB Brooks Bollinger may start against the Eagles on Friday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
With the question of who the Jets’ starting quarterback will be out of the way, Wednesday afternoon’s press conference focused on the next logical question facing the team’s rebuilt offense: who will be the backup?
Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini addressed the competition for the backup job with the media, insisting that QB Chad Pennington had clearly distinguished himself as the most complete quarterback on the team, but beside him, “it’s a pretty competitive group,” the coach explained. He added that the remaining three quarterbacks “all have the same opportunities to fill in the depth chart accordingly.”
Pennington, described today by Mangini as a “model of consistency”, will not play in Friday’s preseason finale at Giants Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mangini was asked if he had chosen a starter for the game, and veering from his usual secretive demeanor, emphatically stated that QB Brooks Bollinger has a “really good chance” at starting the game.
Many interpreted this as a sign that Bollinger is being given a final chance to prove his worth to the team since he appears to be the least consistent of all the Jets quarterbacks. While this may be true, it is important to note that Bollinger has seen the least snaps of the four QBs in preseason games. Mangini has stressed from day one that each player will get an equal chance to win a spot on the roster, so it is likely that he is simply trying to get Bollinger an equal number of reps.
During the press conference, Mangini also told reporters that veteran WR Tim Dwight would not practice on Wednesday, adding that Dwight will not participate in Friday’s game. He stressed that there is no chance of Dwight going on the injured reserve (IR) list, and said that he “likes [Dwight’s] chances” of playing against the Titans in Week One.
RB Kevan Barlow was another center of attention today, both on and off the field. In the locker room prior to practice, Barlow sat down with reporters and talked cheerfully about a variety of subjects. He diplomatically discussed the progress that he has been making with his new team exactly how Mangini coached his players to do, but when speaking of his personal life, Barlow was chatty and very entertaining.
He readily accepted jabs at his big mouth and the trouble it got him into recently, smiling and laughing throughout. Barlow also gave an in-depth account of his admiration for his childhood mentor, RB Curtis Martin. Not only did he discuss growing up in the same neighborhood as Martin and attending the same college that the future Hall-of-Famer once did (Pitt), but Barlow even revealed a trick-of-the-trade that Martin taught him recently.
Barlow said that Martin had told him the “key to his success” in rushing for so many years was to get foot rubs on each foot and ankle for about a half-hour before game time. Barlow joked around, saying that he immediately wanted to sign up for the treatment.
Practice today was not in full uniforms and full pads since it was mainly a run-through for the Eagles game. The early focus was on special teams, with P Ben Graham and WR/KR Jerricho Cotchery really shining. Graham pinned punt-after-punt inside the 10-yard line, something he has had some difficulty with in the past. Cotchery was actually the only Jets player to cleanly field all of his punt-returns, catching the balls cleanly and with very little effort.
The same cannot be said for WR Justin McCareins and RB Leon Washington, both of whom bobbled punts in early drills. McCareins made the most blatant mistake as he let a ball go straight through his hands and hit him directly in the chest.
All four quarterbacks got equal reps early in practice, but soon thereafter Pennington left to work on handoffs with the team’s many running backs. He also worked on short passes with the running backs, and the standout in that drill was none other than the new guy, Kevan Barlow. If he can continue to learn from Curtis Martin about running tips and also incorporate a strong pass-catching ability into his game, Barlow could really wind up turning some heads.
-Mangini noted two players who have had a terrific week of practice in his daily presser, DE Bryan Thomas and TE Chris Baker. He praised Thomas on his versatility on the defensive line, and continued to stress the intangibles the Baker brings to an offense such as leadership and strong communication.
-Pennington, who spoke earlier of this week about how unconfident he felt about his footwork, spent the early minutes of practice working on just that. He seemed to move well on the line and was able to drop back for deeper passes with ease.
-DT Dewayne Robertson continues to excel in practice. Today, Robertson was moved from his usual stretching spot right near the coaches in the front row to the back row, where he stretched unsupervised next to fellow D-lineman Shaun Ellis. Not needing supervision in his stretches is a true testament to the improved attitude and excellent physical conditioning that Mangini has praised in Robertson throughout the preseason.
-The team seems to be getting along very nicely. The locker room and field are filled with smiles and laughter, much of which is caused by Robertson. Robertson has established himself as the “class clown” for the defense, as well as becoming a real leader. Robertson got big laughs today by trying to pick up a car in the parking lot (he actually made decent progress) and by singing the words of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” out loud during stretches and head-banging.
-Long time Jets Director of Media Relations, Doug Miller has accepted a promotion on the media relations staff of the New Orleans Saints. After starting as an intern with the Jets out of college, Miller worked his way up to Director of Media Relations in 2001 and has been with the team for 15 years.
Miller has been a great friend to Jets Insider.com over the years. Congratulations and best of luck in the future to Doug and the Miller Family on behalf of the entire JI staff.
-G Isaac Snell (leg): day to day
-WR/KR Tim Dwight (leg): day to day
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): on PUP list
-DT Tui Alailefaleula (leg): IR Out for Season
-DT Sione Pouha (knee): IR Out for Season
-TE Jason Pociask (shoulder): IR Out for Season
Tomorrow is walk-through day for the team as they prepare for Friday’s preseason finale against the Eagles. Check back to JI for all the latest NY Jets news!