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Jets Nation Eagerly Awaits Penninigton's Return For Stretch Run
By John Melillo
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
December 2nd, 2004
The Jets hope the possible return of QB Chad Pennington this Sunday will ignite the team's sluggish offense of late. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The Jets hope the possible return of QB Chad Pennington this Sunday will ignite the team's sluggish offense of late. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
HEMPSTEAD, NY - Although rain and heavy winds forced the Jets work inside the practice bubble Wednesday, the weekend forecast looked a lot more promising for the team after QB Chad Pennington took the majority of practice reps and appears poised to return to the starting lineup Sunday versus the Houston Texans. Pennington, who has been nursing a strained rotator cuff to his throwing shoulder, will need to practice today and Friday to get the approval of head coach Herm Edwards and staff.

“I'll wait all week till he practices three days in a row,” Edwards said, sounding cautiously optimistic. “We'll know how sore he is. We don't know how sore he is going to be.”

In any case, just to see the red No. 10 jersey running the offense was a sight for sore eyes as the offense has failed to score more than 17 points in a game since Chad’s injury. Two key benefactors to having Chad behind center will be the team’s one-two punch at running back, namely Curtis Martin and LaMont Jordan.

While both praised the effort put forth by Carter in replacing Pennington, both players seemed anxious to see the former Marshall star resume control of the offense.

“I think our running game has been going pretty well in the past few weeks, but I think getting Chad back and teams gaining respect for our passing game will help balance our attack,” Jordan said. “The bottom line is our offense is not scoring enough points and if we can help our defense out, there is no limit to where we can go.”

Indeed, Martin believes the offense is capable of reaching its fullest potential with their captain in the driver’s seat.

“He is definitely the leader of this team and the leader of this offense,” Martin said. “He is the one who knows the offense- definitely more than any player- but probably as well as some of the coaches. He understands everything that is going on. He knows how to put us in advantageous positions to make plays. We are glad to get him back.”

Likewise, Chad is excited to be close to returning as the anxiety of watching his comrades battle on Sundays has been downright torturous for the five-year pro this year.

I am itching (to play),” Pennington said. “I can’t help but have a smile on my face. Even the thought of me playing is pretty exciting for me to be out there. This year we are right in the thick of things.”

Certainly, the Jets offense has performed commendably with their backup quarterback running the show, but football is a team sport, a fact that was hammered home by Coach Edwards this week.

“What had to happen for us (when Chad got hurt) was the defense had to go play,” Edwards said. “I addressed the defense. I said, ‘We got to pick it up now. It's our turn to pick it up.’ They responded.”

Without question, the defense was the driving force behind the two road wins in Chad’s absence. Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson’s crew surrendered just 262, 216 and 245 total net yards and forced six turnovers during the three-game span. Pennington smiled like a proud father as he recalled watching the defense smother opponents recently.

“These last three weeks have shown the character of our team,” Pennington said. “Its not just one person, its not just one facet of the game that’s going to win the football game, its all three phases. That’s what you have to do if you want to be a championship football team.”

The defense’s recent dominance coupled with Pennington’s imminent return could not have come at a more fortunate time for the Green & White as they make a final push for the playoffs. Pennington realizes all three phases must be working efficiently to enjoy any postseason success.

“Scoring less than 20 points a game is not going to allow us to win, especially in the playoffs,” Pennington said. “The teams we play down the stretch, we are going to have to play well offensively.”

The final five-game stretch of their schedule includes match ups with the red-hot Pittsburgh Steelers and the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. The Jets will continue their playoff tune-up this week versus the Houston Texans. Come Sunday, they could have starting gunslinger directing their offense.