Kellen's coming out party.
Jets TE Sean Ryan dives for one of two TD's from QB Kellen Clemens in the Jets 31-16 win over Atlanta. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
While Jets starting QB Chad Pennington didn't attempt a pass in the two series he played, backup Kellen Clemens showed a glimpse of what the Jets have been expecting of him when they drafted him in the second round last year. The young gunslinger completed 16 of 22 passes and three touchdowns and led the Jets to an opening 31-16 pre-season win against Atlanta.
In weather that was a stark contrast to the scorching elements of training camp so far this summer, the team walked into an uncharacteristically cold, damp summer night in East Rutherford.
During it's first two series, the first team defense held its ground against the Falcons offense, forcing them to punt. On the third Atlanta possession, though, Joey Harrington threw a couple deep passes to his receivers, both burning Kerry Rhodes in the process, before Jerious Norwood ran it in for the score.
Just as Atlanta was getting comfortable near the end of the first, Leon Washington returned a kickoff for 86 yards to get Gang Green deep into the Falcon red zone to end the quarter. Twelve seconds into the second quarter, Thomas Jones ran the ball in to the end zone for a one-yard touchdown to tie the game.
During the first two offensive possessions, the Jets relied heavily on the ground game, handing the ball off mostly to the newly acquired Thomas Jones. The starting offense did not throw a single pass in the entire first quarter, running 11 times straight.
“The challenge early was running the ball and that’s what we wanted to do,” head coach Eric Mangini said. “We wanted to see Thomas [Jones] and Leon [Washington] in with different combinations of the lineman we were using. There’s really no better time than in the preseason to do that.”
With the Falcons leading 10-7 in the second quarter, Clemens returned to the field and made some noise by throwing a 42-yard pass to Justin McCareins. Clemens also gave the fans in attendance something to cheer about when he escaped from a blitzing Falcon defense and lobbed a pass to Washington, who raced his way to the two-yard-line. This set up a two-yard touchdown pass to Sean Ryan just after the two minute warning, making it 14-10 Jets. A Falcon field goal at the last second made it 14-13 at the end of the half.
With Clemens still behind center, the offense went right to work, with a long run from Leon Washington and a first down passing gain from Wallace Wright leading to Clemens’ touchdown reception to Chansi Stuckey. With that, the Jets put a firm grip on their lead over the Falcons right off the bat.
Clemens, who was 16 for 22 with 174 yards and 3 TDs, helped add to that lead in the next possession when he threw another touchdown pass to TE Sean Ryan, making the score 28-13. Making it all the more impressive was that Clemens was dealt a hard hit by an incoming Atlanta defender just as he got the ball to Ryan.
“Sean was running a corner route and it was blown coverage so I just threw it out there,” he said. “I wasn’t going to overthrow him and he was going to get it.”
The defense, meanwhile, did whatever was necessary to turn that lead into a certain victory as they held the Atlanta offense to a field goal, while Mike Nugent’s 29 yard field goal sealed the deal for the Jets, who throughout the game played without making any mistakes and had very few penalties.
“One of the goals going in was being able to operate effectively,” Coach Mangini said. “Being able to execute huddles, not having any penalties at the line of scrimmage, not have any substitution errors.”
Flight Crew Debut
The New York Jets Flight Crew made its debut during tonight’s game. The 10-member flag and dance crew was created to bring energy and enthusiasm to the fans at each home game.
Fans will have the opportunity to meet the Flight Crew members at Training Camp on Sunday.
David Harris made his Jets debut on the second team defense, making a solid tackle on an Atlanta runner before he could go any further. In the third quarter, he also
Chansi Stuckey was back deep on the punt return team, and caught a pass in the second quarter from Clemens. In the third quarter, Stuckey caught a touchdown pass in the far end zone corner from Kellen Clemens to strengthen the Jets lead.
Trick plays were present in tonight’s game for the Jets offense. In its first possession, Brad Smith, as the QB, handed off to Leon Washington, who was tackled for a loss. A reverse play in its next possession was more successful as they attempted a reverse to Smith, who was in the WR position in the play. Smith gained nine yards on that play.
A fake punt was also attempted. The ball was snapped to Smith, who attempted to shovel pass it to Stacy Tutt. However, the attempt failed.
Quick Stop for Chad
Quarterback Chad Pennington didn’t stay on the field for long in first half. Pennington was behind center on the first two series without throwing a single pass.
Clarke In First
Adrien Clarke started at guard but disgrutaled Pete Kendall came in during the mid first quarter and played with both the first and second team offense.
-Brad Smith was at QB for one offensive series in the second quarter, impressing many with his ability to escape the pocket when put under defensive pressure.
-Outside of Washington’s return earlier in the game, Smith showed off his talents as a return specialist, opening the second half with a kickoff return up to midfield.
-WR Wallace Wright contributed mightily to the Jets’ fourth touchdown drive, snagging a couple receptions to get Gang Green close to the end zone.
-CB Drew Coleman made a huge statement tonight with his performance. In the second quarter, he nearly had an interception that could’ve been easily returned for touchdown. In the third quarter, however, Coleman made up for the close call by intercepting a D.J. Shockley pass, which was tipped by DL Michael Haynes. On a crucial third down play against the Atlanta offense in the fourth quarter, he broke off a pass that may have been another interception for the veteran.
-Like his touchdown pass to Ryan, Clemens was hit hard during one play just as he got the ball out of his hands. The good news for Clemens was that it landed in the waiting hand of receiver Frisman Jackson.
“That play is attributed all to Frisman,” Clemens replied. “I didn’t get to see the whole play, but from what I heard he made a great catch. All the credit on that one goes to Frisman.”
-Speaking of Ryan, as mentioned above, the TE who was acquired from Dallas last year had two TD's and seems to be adding another dimension to his game besides blocking. By stepping up his offensive production, he and fellow TE Chris Baker could be a lethal combination this season.
-Punter Ben Graham made a nice tackle on an Atlanta return man, holding the Falcons to only five yards on the return.
John Abraham made his return to the Meadowlands as a part of the Atlanta defense. He appreciated the homecoming, but knew that business had to be taken care of.
“It was nice coming back to my old house,” said the former Jet. “It was good seeing some of my old teammates, but tonight was like any other game.”
Special Guest Appearance
Former QB Doug Williams, famous for his MVP performance in Super Bowl XXII, was spotted in the Meadowlands press box working along side fellow members of the media. Williams now works as a scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Jets have tomorrow off then return to practice at Hofstra on Sunday. Be sure to check back to JI for all the latest NY Jets news!
75,000 attendees? I don't think so.
There were many chuckles in the press box when the team announced the paid attendence was over 75,000. In reality, most fans stayed home as there was probably around 20,000 actual attendees on the cold rainy August evening. Game time temperature was annouced at 54 degress.
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