Jets rookie WR/QB Brad Smith ran, passed and caught the ball in the Jets' 20-17 win over the Eagles. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
With final cuts less than a day away, Friday night’s preseason finale between the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles was a final opportunity for players to make an impression with their coaches. While the majority of starters for both squads rested up for Week 1 of the regular season, rookies and veterans at a variety of positions fought to keep their NFL dreams alive.
The Jets, who yesterday sent backup QB Brooks Bollinger to the Minnesota Vikings yesterday for DT C.J. Moseley in order to add depth to their injury-plagued D-line, gave the final start of the preseason to rookie QB Kellen Clemens. Clemens, who is pretty much guaranteed a roster spot at this point, is currently locked in a heated battle with veteran QB Patrick Ramsey for the team’s backup QB spot and tried to make a case for himself Friday.
Clemens played the entire first half of the rainy match-up and posted solid numbers, completing seven of ten passes for 75 yards. He also rushed two times for a total of seven yards.
The highlight of Clemens’ day came on his first offensive play, where he connected with fellow rookie Brad Smith for a 37-yard completion. Smith had to come back to the ball a little bit, but he told reporters that he knew from the start of the play that he might have to make a nice catch. “Kellen told me, ‘I’m going to throw it to you, you just go up and get it.’”
Clemens’ day seemed to just go downhill from there. He was sacked twice because of poor play by the Jets’ second-string offensive line, and in the second quarter, threw a key interception in a two-minute drill that led to a David Akers field goal for the Eagles.
The starting QB for the Eagles, veteran Jeff Garcia, had an even worse day. He played for the first quarter only, going one-for-six for a grand total of four passing yards. When asked about his performance, Garcia said simply, “I’m disappointed because I want to come out here and take advantage of this opportunity for myself.” That opportunity was Garcia’s chance to secure his spot as QB Donovan McNabb’s backup, but his poor play opened the door for newly-acquired QB A.J. Feeley to show off his stuff, and Feeley responded accordingly. He finished the day nine-for-twelve with a game-high 131 passing yards.
Not all borderline Jets players fared as poorly as Clemens, however. Undrafted rookie DT Titus Adams got the start for the Jets defense and held his place on the defensive line very well, causing chaos on the inside and even finding the opportunity to bat down a pass at the line. Rookie safeties Eric Smith and Drew Coleman also had outstanding days against the Eagles. Smith recorded seven solo tackles in the first half and added an assisted tackle in the second, while Coleman laid down four big tackles and topped it off with an interception.
Still, the star of the Jet’s defense on Friday was two-year veteran DE Trevor Johnson. On top of recording a game-high nine solo tackles, Johnson also intercepted two passes by Eagles backup QB Timmy Chang. Chang threw the pass intercepted by Coleman as well.
After an all-around lackluster effort by the team in the first half left the Jets trailing 17-0 at the break, the great defensive play mentioned above coupled with the complete dominance of RB Cedric Houston in the backfield gave way to an amazing comeback.
Houston, who has been in Head Coach Eric Mangini’s doghouse as of late, was given a final chance to prove his worth by the rookie coach in the second half. Houston pounced on the opportunity early, using his aggressive running to spark a quick scoring drive to kick off the half. Houston picked up the first two rushing first downs of the day by the Jets on the drive, and his overwhelming presence in the backfield ultimately freed up WR Dante Ridgeway to catch a 14-yard touchdown pass from QB Patrick Ramsey.
Houston finished the contest with a game-high 108 yards rushing on 25 carries. While he did not score, the performance was by far his best of the preseason, both on the field and in practice.
The Jets crept closer to the Eagles with a pair of Mike Nugent field goals, and finally took the lead on a nine-yard TD run by WR Brad Smith, who played quarterback for the final quarter of the game. Smith was a star QB at Missouri before being drafted to the Jets in April to play receiver. When asked how it felt to play QB again, Smith laughed and said, “It felt good. It’s been a while.”
Smith also told reporters that he has not been practicing at QB and said that he was surprised that Mangini asked him to go under center.
The incredible second half for the Jets culminated with a goal line stand with under two minutes remaining that robbed Philly of whatever chance they had to tie or win the game. The Eagles, who had a first-and-goal on the Jets six-yard line, took three plays to get the ball up to the one-yard line before deciding to go for it on fourth and one. That fourth down attempt was stopped short of the end zone by none other than Titus Adams, who tackled the Philly rusher for a one yard loss.
Lots of players put on memorable performances in Friday’s win, and that can only make Coach Mangini’s job even tougher as he has to narrow the roster to 53 players by Saturday evening.
-Jets CB Derrick Strait had an excellent day, providing tight coverage on recievers and laying down big hits when necessary.
-Mike Nugent hit a 49-yard field goal in driving rain and strong wind. Last week, Nugent was criticized after the team’s loss to the Giants because he missed a 49-yard field goal.
-The star player on Philadelphia’s offense on Friday was RB Ryan Moats. Moats had 15 carries for 65 yards and a score during his work in the first half and seemed to cut apart the Jets second-string defense with ease. Newly-acquired WR Donte’ Stallworth did not play in the contest.
-RB Leon Washington, who got the start at running back for the Jets, continues to turn heads with his kickoff returns. Washington returned one kickoff against the Eagles, the kickoff to start the second half, and returned it 50 yards to midfield.
-The Jets announced to media early in the 3rd quarter that they had acquired veteran DE Bobby Hamilton from the Oakland Raiders for an undisclosed draft pick. Hamilton, 6-5, 285, is a 12-year NFL veteran who has played in 148 games, making 103 starts. He has accumulated 283 tackles and 18.5 sacks in his career, while playing for the Jets (1996-1999), Patriots (2000-2003, two Super Bowls), and Raiders.
-WR Tim Dwight (leg): day to day
-G Isaac Snell (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
The team has off tomorrow as the Jets work to narrow down their roster to the league-mandated 53 players, and will return to the practice field on Sunday. Check in with JI for all the latest Jets news!