Giants DE Osi Umenyiora sacks Chad Pennington during the Jets 20-12 win. The team won, despite a sorry showing by the Jets' first team offense. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Inconsistency from QB Chad Pennington due to a sub par performance by the team’s offensive line overshadowed great days from a par of Jets’ rookies and the backup squad in New York’s 20-12 win over the cross-town rival Giants.
In front of a paid crowd of 76,778 fans, the game started off with some serious electricity, alleviating fears, albeit temporarily, that Pennington was in for another poor start. On the first play of the game, Pennington hit a wide-open Leon Washington on the sideline. The running back took the ball downfield, weaving in and out of New York defenders, for the 79-yard touchdown.
“(CB R.W.) McQuarters was out there, and I don’t think he thought I was going to throw it to (Washington),” Pennington said. “I kind of stared at (Cotchery) and gave it a little fake, and threw it up to Leon.”
The first team did not offer any other highlights for the afternoon, though, experiencing difficulties in opening up holes for Washington and giving Pennington any time in the pocket. The Jets’ QB was sacked twice by rushes from the left side, and failed to lead the team to any first downs, acknowledging that the team has “a lot of work to do” with only one preseason game left.
The play of offensive linemen Adrien Clarke and Jacob Bender left much to be desired. Clarke was whistled for a hold, and on multiple occasions, the pocket collapsed around Pennington from the left, reminding fans that while the loss of OL Pete Kendall may have solved some locker room problems, it will not bode well for the team on the field.
C Nick Mangold attributed the line’s lackluster performance to a “lack of communication,” but did say that Bender had a great game considering he was thrown into the fire as a starting guard.
Pennington’s line didn’t look too bad, as the QB managed to go five for eleven with 89 yards. However, erasing the big touchdown connection, the Gang Green helmsman’s line managed to read only four for ten totaling ten yards in the air, and when he left the game, the Jets were down 12 to 6. He did acknowledge his history of preseason problems suggesting that not dissecting game tapes as rigorously serves as a handicap after the game.
Passing was not the only aspect of the Jets’ attack that suffered as a result of the offensive line’s showing, either. RB Leon Washington failed to break any rushed for any sort of gain, rushing the ball seven times for a paltry total of six yards.
Also experiencing difficulties was training camp superstar Darian Barnes. The fullback dropped one pass and slipped after receiving another, all the while failing to offer any sort of lead blocking for Washington.
Offering great hope for the Jets was their first two draft picks, DB Darrelle Revis and LB David Harris, and the second stringers. Revis, in a starting role due to injuries to CB Andre Dyson and CB Justin Miller, broke up a multitude of passes and made a couple of nice tackles, preventing WR Amani Toomer from breaking any passes from QB Eli Manning open. A scare was offered when the first round draft pick was hit hard on his first punt return as a Jet, but No. 24 bounced up quick and returned to the sideline.
Revis said that getting “bodies on bodies” by tackling the opposition was a good step in moving toward getting used to the hitting he missed during his holdout.
Mangini, on the other hand, liked what he saw from Revis, but refused to become overexcited, mentioning that Revis and the other rookies, including Bender, Harris and WR Chansi Stuckey “struggled at different points,” specifying that Revis was out of position on a few plays.
Harris, meanwhile, gave Jets fans something to cheer about by laying a big hit on Giants backup RB Reuben Droughns late in the first half after a reception from Manning. His stop on Droughns was one of five tackles.
Harris’ counterpart, LB Jonathan Vilma, performed okay while on the field. His name once again was largely absent from the stat sheet, failing to accumulate many tackles. The Giants’ running game didn’t manage to break open too many rushes though, and managed only 64 yards on 17 carries in the first half, (an average of 3.8 yards per rush).
In the passing game, however, Vilma and LB Eric Barton experienced some troubles on passes over the middle. Manning connected with WR Anthony Mix over the middle on more than one occasion, and did not feel the effects of the pass rush at all in the first half, going 17 for 25 with 146 yards and a touchdown.
Regarding the second string, RB Danny Ware (13 carries, 52 yards) turned in yet another impressive performance, his line outdistancing Washington’s by miles, and QB Kellen Clemens continued to look like an absolute gamer, performing magnificently during his time in the second half.
Whether or not it was simply a product of the fact that the Giants’ backup defense left much to be desired, there was no arguing the impressiveness by which the Clemens-led Jets marched down the field seemingly at will.
In the first drive that Clemens and Ware entered the game, head coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer decided to run the ball down the throats of New York’s defense. Ware answered the call perfectly, breaking gain after gain for big yards, culminating in a 16-yard touchdown run that gave the Jets a 13 to 12 lead.
The coaching staff switched things up in the next drive, opting to allow Clemens’ arm do the talking. The move paid off, as Clemens threw back-to-back bombs, one 45-yarder to WR Justin McCareins and one 34-yard pass to WR Brad Smith, to bring Gang Green to the Giants one. The next play, Clemens snuck the ball into the endzone, and after a successful extra point by K Mike Nugent, the Jets were on top 20-12.
“It was a great collective effort,” Clemens said, “and we were very happy to move the ball and put some points on the board.”
It actually looked like Clemens was going to make it a trifecta, leading the Jets to three consecutive touchdowns, after moving the ball down the field by hitting tight ends James Pociask and Joe Kowalewski several times. However, the drive stalled when Giants DB J.R. Reed made an incredible one-handed, diving interception on a Clemens pass on the two-yard line. The pass from Clemens was actually a perfect strike, but sheer athleticism on Reed’s part turned a possible touchdown into the play of the game. Clemens said that it was a bad way to end a great day, but he was still quite pleased with his progression this preseason.
“With each game that I have a chance to play in, I am growing in confidence,” Clemens said. “Anytime you get experience, it’s a good thing.”
With such an impressive performance by Clemens (six for eight passing totaling 121 yards) for the third consecutive game, and another poor performance by Pennington, the possibility of a quarterback controversy in New York is more prevalent than ever. While Mangini is still sticking by his man, we’ll see if the head coach wavers in the event of another Pro Bowl performance by Clemens in the Jets’ final preseason game against Philadelphia.
Other questions will also be answered this week, especially the prospect of Revis challenging for a true starting role come opening day after a great game, Harris becoming a stalwart in the team’s starting 3-4 defense, and the problem the Jets have at left guard. Jets Insider will have full coverage of the practices leading up to the preseason finale August 30 in Philadelphia.
Busy Day for Graham
Aside from P Ben Graham punting the ball in his standard formation, the Aussie also had to line up for a safety punt after S Rashad Washington was whistled for holding in the endzone on a punt attempt.
His punt sufficed for a quality boot, although it didn’t compare to his first kick, a 65-yarder in the first quarter.
Nugent Showcases his Leg
To go with his two extra points, Nugent looked strong kicking the ball off, sending one kick for a touchback and two others inside the Giants’ five-yard-line.
Giants’ Stars Absent from Limelight
Big Blue wasn’t so big Saturday night, failing to dress 12 players. Among those wearing suits on the sideline were star WR Plaxico Burress and outspoken TE Jeremy Shockey.
The Jets’ tandem of difference-making receivers, Laveranues Coles and Jerricho were held to a grand total of one reception and two yards.
The group’s only catch was a two-yard screen play that Coles caught. The receiver was stopped almost immediately after making the reception.
The team’s starting running back, Washington, led the team with three catches for 86 yards, mostly thanks to his touchdown reception.
Wadsworth with Late Fireworks
In the midst of a disappointing training camp, LB Andre Wadsworth created his own bright spot late in the game, clinching the game for Gang Green.
The Giants had the ball and were driving without timeouts in their own territory. Wadsworth managed to force a fumble by third string QB Tim Hasselbeck which Gang Green recovered, giving the Jets the ball with two minutes left, and essentially, the victory.
After a day off tomorrow the Jets return to the field on Monday to prepare for their final warmup against the Eagles next week. The team will also likely announce their first cuts tomorrow. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest news!
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