Jets QB Chad Pennington reflects in Foxboro after their 37-16 loss in the playoffs last January. He hopes for a better outcome this week. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
As the Jets get ready to open up the 2007 season they will be doing so against the team that ended their season last year. They will be opening up against the team that made the two biggest splashes this winter. They will be opening up against a team that has been labeled as a Super Bowl contender. They will be opening up against their division rival, the New England Patriots.
”It will be different this year because any time you’re getting ready for the opening game of the season, even with a team you’re familiar with, it can be different. You never know what they’ve been doing in terms of their off-season, changes, their off-season study and you have to also address the new personnel,” said Jets head coach Eric Mangini. “So anytime you go into the opening game whether it’s Tennessee last year or New England this year, you always have to have the ability to adjust to the unexpected.”
But these Patriots aren’t the same Patriots from last season. New England used this off-season to bolster their offense and defense. Last year one of New England’s weak points was at the wide receiver position. Even though WR Jabar Gaffney and WR Reche Caldwell put together good performances against the Jets, the Patriots felt like that was the most important area to improve on coming into the 2007 season.
And did they ever! Patriots QB Tom Brady now has three targets he can employ at will. New England traded for WR Randy Moss on draft day. New England also acquired WR Dante Stallworth from Philadelphia and WR/KR Wes Welker from Miami. What makes these three so dangerous is they have different styles of play.
Moss is the deep ball threat out of the three. Moss has made a living in the NFL, by being able to catching the homerun pass and then finding end-zone. While the Patriots will be looking downfield for Moss, the Jets also have to concentrate on the line of scrimmage. That is where Stallworth succeeds. The Patriots will probably try to get the ball in the hands of the speedy receiver by using a variety of short passes and reverses, so Stallworth can use his speed. Then comes Welker, he is more of the middle of the field receiver. Welker can also affect the game while he in on special teams.
“We have seen them all play before. I played against Randy Moss my first year, we’ve Wes Welker with Miami, I’ve seen Donte Stallworth with Philly, so we have seen them all. We know what they are capable of doing and we know that they are great receivers,” said Jets safety Kerry Rhodes.
“With the changes they made, they can do anything. They can do whatever they want. We have to be ready for everything they can do, so that’s what we are focusing on right now,” added Rhodes.
So with three explosive receivers, the Jets secondary will have their hands full all afternoon. CB Andre Dyson, who has missed a significant chunk of camp due to injury, is just returning practice this week and there is no saying on how effective he will be. Another cornerback who has missed a large amount time this training is Pro-Bowl kick returner Justin Miller. Miller, despite off the field issues, earned praise from Mangini during training camp for the work he has done to improve at cornerback. So with Dyson and Miller missing a lot of camp, that might mean first-round pick Darrelle Revis will a lot of time and possibly start. The secretive Mangini would never disclose that information until game time.
Along with throwing ball, New England will also look to run the ball as well. Last year, New England had two backs that split time. But this year with no Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney will be the feature back in the New England backfield.
Offensively for the Jets there are a lot of question marks. Mangini, who has been “vanilla” with the play-calling, will have find another flavor because the first team offense has been down right horrific in the preseason games.
QB Chad Pennington will look to bounce back after a rough preseason. Pennington after not attempting a pass in the first game, threw two interceptions in the game against the Vikings. In the third preseason game against the Giants Pennington looked like got himself corrected as he connected with RB Leon Washington for 79 yard touchdown pass. But that would be only thing Pennington and the first team offense would do all night as they would not record a first down for the rest of the first half.
One difference Pennington will have to deal is at left guard. It looks the Jets will start rookie Jacob Bender in the spot vacated by Pete Kendall. Bender got used and abused in the game against the Giants, but he did fare better in the preseason finale against the Eagles. OL Adrien Clarke will see time at LG if Bender struggles.
“With our offensive line situation, I feel comfortable with where our guys are,” said Pennington. “The reason I feel comfortable is because they’re working extremely hard to work things out and communicate better with each other.”
As for the play calling, now as we enter the regular the regular season, Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will probably open the playbook and let Pennington use his targets. Pennington likes to throw to WR’s Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, but he also might want to throw the ball to more WR Justin McCareins. McCareins led the team in receiving yards in the preseason (6 catches for 146 yards).
The biggest question mark offensively for the Jets is whether newly acquired running back Thomas Jones will play and if he does how effective can he be against the tough New England defense. Jones strained his calf while participating in a blocking drill during training camp. Jones has returned to practice this week, but the real question is will if he conditioned enough to carry the ball 25-30 times.
Thomas has worked extremely hard to get back to where he is and he’s going to be fine. He understands what he needs to do as an individual to help us win,” said Pennington. “Anytime you have a back like that and put him with Leon (Washington), you feel like you have two solid running backs that can always give you positive yardage and create plays.”
The Jets did catch a break as the Patriots will be without S Rodney Harrison (suspension) and DL Richard Seymour (Physically-Unable to-Perform list). However CB Asante Samuel, who held out for a majority of Bill Belichick’s training camp will in uniform and ready to play on Sunday.
But just because the Patriots are missing two leaders on the defensive side of the ball, it doesn’t automatically mean a win for the Jets. Like the offense the Patriots improved their defense by signing LB Adalius Thomas from the Baltimore Ravens and drafting S Brandon Meriweather with their first round pick.
“The Patriots are always a good matchup and we know that they are a tough team and a very good team,” said Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma. “With Harrison and Seymour out, they are going to replace those guys and whoever goes in is going to do well for them.
Even though the Jets were handed a tough loss in the playoffs last January, none of players are looking for revenge. At least that's what they are saying publicly. Though they would have loved to come away with a win in the postseason, the Jets realize that this is a new season and what happened last season was last season.
“It’s whole other year. Last year was last year,” said Kerry Rhodes. “There’s no added motivation for this game.”
Pennington on a short leash?
Everyone knows about the struggles Pennington had during the preseason. Unfortunately for Pennington, backup QB Kellen Clemens performed very well this preseason, as everytime Clemens entered the game it looked like he gave a spark to the team. If Pennington continues to struggle when does Mangini decide pull Pennington in favor of Clemens?
The Jets regular season series between the two teams with a 48-44-1 record. The last time these two teams met to open the season was in 1999 and New England came away with a 30-28 win.
The year’s first official injury report is utilizing N-F-L commissioner Roger Goodell’s new formula. Replacing the classic “probable, questionable, doubtful and out” classifications is “full participation in practice, limited participation in practice, did not participate in practice and out.”
New York Jets
Full Participation in Practice: TE Joe Kowalewski (finger), QB Chad Pennington (pelvis), DL Dewayne Robertson (knee), WR Chansi Stuckey (knee), FB Stacy Tutt (foot)
Limited Participation in Practice: CB Andre Dyson (foot), RB Thomas Jones (calf), CB Justin Miller (thigh), OL Brandon Moore (shoulder), S Eric Smith (thigh)
New England Patriots
Full Participation in Practice: QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
Limited Participation in Practice: S Rashad Baker (hand), TE Dave Thomas (foot), DL Mike Wright (knee)
Game time is at 1:00PM on Sunday, local TV on CBS 2 and local radio on 1050 ESPN radio and WCRN 104.3 on Long Island. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com after the game for a complete recap!
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