Getting To Know You
By Kevin Newell
Jets Insider.com Head Writer
May 5th, 2003
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Other than pitcher and catcher, no combination in sports relies on being in sync more so than the quarterback and wide receiver. Like everything else, it takes time. The precision, timing, and nuances required between a signal caller and his wingman are not often developed overnight. It most cases it may take a year or more.
For Chad Pennington and Curtis Conway, that rapport has been expedited beginning at the Jets three-day mini-camp that concluded Sunday. After all, the pending season hinges on their success.
With Laveranues Coles' departure to the Washington Redskins, the Jets brass brought in Conway, a 10-year veteran, to not only fill a huge void, but to give Pennington a big-play guy who's been there and done that.
The early ballots are in and the feeling from both precincts is that things are progressing nicely. It's not quite Namath to Maynard, but it's far from O'Donnell to whomever.
"I'm actually pleasantly surprised at the feel that we have for each other," said Pennington. "I think it's a natural thing. There's something about X receivers that I've always had a pretty good feel about. We have a good base that we set in camp. Now we just have to build on that. And with Wayne and Santana and Kevin Swayne, shoot, we're going to have a good receiving corps."
Said Conway: "This is a learning camp, so it's more just trying to get familiar with each other. But I like what I see so far."
As a crafty veteran who has played with 13 previous quarterbacks, Conway says he brings an array of intangibles that will not only compliment his new QB, but also earn his trust in tight situations.
"I can adjust to whatever he has to do," said Conway. "Having played with so many quarterbacks, my thing is: don't adjust to me, I'll adjust to you. That gives a quarterback a little relaxation when he's back in the pocket."
While Jets fans have been clamoring for a big receiver in the mold of the dearly departed Keyshawn Johnson, they have somehow overlooked Conway, another former USC Trojan, who has had decent production in an injury plagued career.
The seventh pick of the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1993 draft, Conway has put up some solid numbers while playing in the Windy City and more recently, in San Diego. He has a career 510 receptions for 7,187 yards (a 14.1 average per catch) and 47 touchdowns. Last year, Conway, who stands 6-foot-1 and weight 196 pounds, was on his way to Hawaii before getting hurt, but still amassed 57 catches, 852 yards, and five TDs. Over the last two seasons he's caught 128 balls covering 1,977 yards. And that's despite missing three games.
If Conway stays healthy for an entire season there's no telling what he can do. Especially since he'll be lining up with arguably the best quarterback he's ever had during his NFL career.
Conway said there were two main reasons why he chose New York as his new football address. One was the head coach. The other: the starting quarterback.
"It was Herm first, then Chad," Conway said. "I haven't had the same quarterback for more than one season, so I figured I at least could get in two years here."
As for Conway's early impressions of the Jets franchise player?
"He's doing everything he needs to do to get better," says Conway. "So I can't really pinpoint one thing that he needs to improve. He's in here like he's been in the league for 10 years. He works, he thinks, he's in the meetings, he's studying, he talks to all the [receivers] and tries to get a feel for what we're doing on the field. He's doing all the right things."
When asked to compare Conway and Coles, Pennington offered this scouting report:
"Their styles are totally different," he said. "Laveranues' style was more rigid. He was very directional and shifty. Curtis is more fluid and smooth. They get the job done - but in different ways."
Ever the optimist, Pennington has placed Coles, his former go-to guy, in the rear view mirror. It's time to move on. He knows the past is the past and he's confident that Conway can more than pick up the slack in several ways.
While Coles was developing into a Pro Bowl caliber receiver, Pennington is well aware that Conway brings a couple of things to the table that old number 87 didn't. For starters, seven more years notched in his NFL belt.
"One, because of his experience," Pennington explained. "But most important, because of his body type. Laveranues is so muscular; he looks like he's going to get a cramp. He's got great definition to his routes and things. Curtis gets it done in different ways. We just have to carry that on to the playing field when it's on the line."
Conway concurred. "The true test is game day," he said.
That first test is Sept. 4, when the Jets visit the Redskins. Ironically, that's the night the past and present recipients of Pennington's passes will collide. Should make for some interesting theater.
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