The Jets hope their luck in Baltimore is better than the last time they played there and lost in 2005. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
After having endured a humiliating ordeal in week one at the hands of their hated rivals, the New York Jets will look to bounce back in a big way as they drive down I-95 for a match-up with the Baltimore Ravens, who are also coming off a week one loss against a division rival.
The Jets were soundly defeated by the New England Patriots 38-14, while the Ravens were defeated by the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night 27-20. It is evident in the minds of both teams that they want to have a successful Sunday after those kinds of losses.
“I’m excited for this week of preparation,” said QB Kellen Clemens. “I’m excited to go out and get some good work done and hopefully, we will come away with a win.”
In last Sunday’s game against the Patriots, the offense was ineffective throughout, save for a few touchdown drives, and they would love nothing more than to rebound in a big way. However, they will have to do so against the Ravens’ vaunted defense, led by Pro-Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis and the hard-hitting safety Ed Reed. Lewis, however, has an arm injury and did not practice for Baltimore on Wednesday. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the offense will handle one of the league’s best defenses.
“They have some fast guys on defense and they have played together a lot, so they are experienced guys,” said RB Thomas Jones. “It’s going to be a great game.”
“Anytime that you look at a secondary like that and a total defense as good as they are, you know that you have your work cut out for you,” said WR Laveranues Coles.
If that wasn’t enough, Gang Green is also dealing with a quarterback crisis. Chad Pennington went down during last week’s game with an ankle injury in the second half, and was replaced by Clemens. Pennington hasn't practiced all week and it looks like Clemens will get his first start on Sunday.
“It’s just a day-¬to¬-day process,” said Pennington. “(I’m) working extremely hard around the clock to do everything I can to prepare myself to play, just taking it day-by-day and seeing how much progress we make each day.”
Jones, who was figured by many to be a huge pick-up to improve the rushing offense, did not factor at all against New England. He got 14 carries for only 42 yards, and the Jets will need him to come alive in order to avoid a 0-2 start. However, his participation in practice has been limited thanks to a calf injury he sustained during training camp.
The defense, meanwhile, didn’t fare any better on Sunday as Tom Brady burned the secondary for three passing touchdowns, including a deep pass to Randy Moss, who was covered by three Jets defenders in the process. They hope to have an easier time against a Ravens’ offense that turned the ball over six times and saw lackluster performances from both Steve McNair and Kyle Boller at the quarterback position. The Jets, however, know that the quality of the Baltimore offense should not be judged on just one game.
“Steve can make all of the throws and Kyle can make all of the throws as well,” said LB Jonathan Vilma. “We know what kind of runner [Willis McGahee] is. We have to try to get to him early before he gets started and tackle him. That is the best thing that we can do.”
The special teams unit was outdone on Sunday by Ellis Hobbs as he returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown to open the second half. A lot of hard work will be in store for the special teams during all practice if they want to prevent a repeat of last week’s disaster.
Clearly, the Jets have their work cut out for them. After dealing with one of the NFL’s premier teams, they come in to Baltimore to face a highly-touted defensive unit. With a lot of high expectations surrounding the Jets, it will be very disappointing to see the Jets go 0-2. With practice and a lot of strong performances on Sunday, the Jets might be able to right their ship and encounter some smooth sailing in their 2007 campaign.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The offense in general has to score big and often, especially against the Ravens’ defense. Thomas Jones rushed for only 42 yards in his Jets debut in Week 1 and has been hampered by a calf injury since training camp. Leon Washington, who had performed superbly in the preseason, rushed for 15 yards in four carries. Both rushers must gain a huge chunk of yardage in order to help the offense get some points. The same goes to the receivers. Although Laveranues Coles scored all of the two touchdowns the Jets got last week, he too was lackluster, as was everyone else on the receiving front. Everyone must get up and provide a big-time spark for this team.
The Jets defense must force the Ravens’ offense into making the same kind of mistakes that had doomed them against Cincinnati. Although Baltimore has the talented Willis McGahee (who fared better in his Ravens debut, rushing for 77 yards on 19 carries) and proven veterans in WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap, the quarterback position has been a gaping question mark. Steve McNair was very shaky on Monday night with an interception, three lost fumbles and got sacked twice before going down with a groin injury. His replacement, Kyle Boller, fared no better, having been picked off once as well, not to mention his failed attempt in the past as a full-time starting quarterback for the Ravens. Gang Green must jump all over the offense, and it starts by putting lots of pressure on the QB.
To do just that, stopping McGahee is a huge key. McGahee has had some success against the Jets as a member of the Buffalo Bills. If the Jets can finally figure out McGahee, then they can force the QB into trying to win the game by himself, which can put just as much pressure on him as a seven-man blitz. Given Boller’s track record and McNair’s recent struggles, it shouldn’t be that hard.
Coach Mangini may come in to Baltimore as the enemy when his Jets take on the Ravens. However, the city does hold some fond memories and experiences for him. Mangini spent one year there as then-head coach Ted Marchibroda’s quality control coach. It was also the very same year the Ravens first played, and the rookie years of Ray Lewis and Jonathan Odgen.
“I’ve got a lot of great memories from my time there,” he said. “I got to see [Lewis and Odgen] as rookies and actually called in the first draft pick ever for the Ravens.”
Another good memory for Mangini in Baltimore was when he met his wife Julie. Her parents still reside in the area.
“We still go back quite a bit,” he said. “It's a special place for me and it’s nice to go back to Baltimore and to be able to spend some time where I had a really positive experience.”
Sunday’s Jets-Ravens game will be a homecoming of sorts for a few Jets. LB Eric Barton and DE Eric Hicks attended the University of Maryland, where they played college football for the Terrapins. Rookie OL Jacob Bender is a native of Mayo, Maryland, and played football at DeMatha Catholic, where he was a team captain and received all-state, all-conference, and all-state academic honors as a senior there.
Fixing the O-Line
Pete Kendall’s release in the summer evidently left issues on the left side of the offensive line. In the left guard position, the Jets have alternated in the preseason between Adrien Clarke and Jacob Bender, although the Jets went with Clarke for the season opener. When asked if he had the confidence to fix that side, coach Mangini preferred to be general about the entire offensive line.
“I can tell you I wasn't alluding to the left side of the line,” he said. “It's constantly evaluating the things you don't do very well, fixing that, looking at that in the context of the opponent that you're playing, looking at the things they did not do well and seeing whether you can do the same things that the team they played did.”
Jonathan Vilma and Ray Lewis are seen by many as the leaders of their respective defenses, such that people have drawn comparisons between the two. Ravens head coach Brian Billick and S Ed Reed can attest.
“I know from playing with Vilma my years at Miami that he’s a smart guy, a leader and he’s just like Ray,” said Reed. “I’ve played with Ray and I’ve played with Vilma. I know those guys mentalities. They’re two smart guys, two leaders, two physical guys and two playmakers at the same position.”
Billick, meanwhile, got his observations from former Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, who worked on Billick’s coaching staff in the past.
“I know Donnie Henderson was a member of my staff for a number of years and was there with the Jets,” he said. “He felt that there was a comparison based on the potential of Vilma. He really liked the kid, so most of my observations come from people like Donnie that thought the world of him. Having been with Ray and with Vilma, he’s probably as good of a judge of it as I would be.”
Whole Lotta Love
Should Kellen Clemens be given the nod to start against Baltimore, it will be his first career start against the Ravens. While he is not entirely familiar with their defense, Ravens head coach Brian Billick is familiar with Clemens.
“We really liked him, and I remember being very impressed by him,” said Billick. “If I’m not mistaken, I think he is one of the athletes that we brought in here to Baltimore. We used to bring in 15-20 guys after the combine for any number of different reasons- maybe medical or maybe we didn’t get a chance to see them at the combine. If I’m not mistaken, he is one that came in. At the combine we spent time with him and enjoyed it. I thought he was very, very good.”
Not including their tenure as the former Cleveland Browns, the Ravens lead the all-time regular season series against the Jets 4-1. The Jets’ last win against Baltimore was in their first ever meeting in 1997, when Gang Green won the game in overtime 19-16.
Full Participation in Practice: TE Joe Kowalewski (Shoulder); DL Dewayne Robertson (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); QB Chad Pennington (Ankle); DB Eric Smith (Thigh)
Full Participation in Practice: TE Todd Heap (Elbow); Haloti Ngata (Knee); S Ed Reed (Ankle)
Limited Participation in Practice: WR Mark Clayton (Toe); WR Demetrius Williams (Chest)
Did Not Participate in Practice: LB Ray Lewis (Arm); QB Steve McNair (Groin); T Jonathan Odgen (Toe); CB Samari Rolle (Foot); LB Gary Stills (Chest); TE Daniel Wilcox (Ankle)
Game time is at 4:15PM 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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