Jets QB Kellen Clemens leaves the field yesterday after his first win as a starter against Pittsburgh. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Just four days after coming away with one of the season’s most surprising upsets, coach Eric Mangini and the Jets will find themselves in the national spotlight, taking on the 9-1 Dallas Cowboys.
Yet, while the team will have to make due with such a short week, Sunday’s game may have actually served as a preview of what the team will see on Thanksgiving day, with some “definite carryover” between the teams, according to Mangini.
At quarterback, the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger’s combination of mobility and pocket presence has numerous similarities to the Cowboys’ Tony Romo.
The running back situation for each team is similar as well. Pittsburgh combined Willie Parker and Najeh Davenport in a hard-nosed, pound-the-ball ground game. Dallas’ Julius Jones—the brother of Thomas Jones—and Marion Barber III perform in the same system.
And, on the defensive side, Dallas’ ability to stop the run is virtually the NFC’s version of Pittsburgh—they are allowing just 84 rushing yards per game.
“Obviously the players are different and how you have to handle each one of those players is a little bit different,” Mangini said. “But having the similarity in scheme and style can be very positive. [We’re] going against another very good football team with an outstanding quarterback, outstanding receiver, outstanding tight end, two good running backs, a good offensive line, high pressure defense, [and] multiple guys with triple sacks.”
One element that the Cowboys add to their arsenal is one of the league’s most talented wide receivers: Terrell “Getcha Popcorn Ready” Owens.
“He’s tough to handle,” Mangini said. “He’s tough in terms of his routes, he’s tough once he gets the ball in his hands, and he’s got an excellent feel for man and zone, physical, especially down the field competing for the ball.”
Therefore, the Jets’ secondary, led by Kerry Rhodes, Darrelle Revis and Hank Poteat, will once again look to play tight coverage on the Cowboys’ wide receiving corps while the front seven, namely Dewayne Robertson, Shaun Ellis and David Harris, try to keep Romo in the pocket. And they aren’t counting on the win over Pittsburgh to intimidate the Cowboys’ attack.
“Dallas really doesn’t care,” Ellis said. “To them, we’re still 2-8, so we just have to go out there, play our style of football and see what happens.
In preparation for the Thanksgiving showdown, New York will have one full-contact practice this week—tomorrow—that emulates the team’s usual Thursday through Saturday practices. Mangini is not concerned, though, since the team had the opportunity to do some extra work late last week.
Players of the Week named
As per usual on Mondays following a win, the Mangini announced the offensive, defensive, special teams and practice players of the week.
Thomas Jones won the award on offense after eclipsing 100 yards on the ground.
Shaun Ellis’ constant pressure on the quarterback landed him the defensive accolade.
A combination of three tackles and efficient blocking landed Brad Kassell the special teams’ honors.
And the player that shone most on the practice squad—the “most important” of the players of the weeks, according to Mangini—was Marques Tuiasosopo for his emulation of Roethlisberger.
Clemens does the job
He completed less than half of his passes, made some throws that sailed well over his wide receivers’ heads, threw an ugly interception and was flagged late on a delay of game penalty.
Truth be told, though, Clemens performed admirably at quarterback for Gang Green.
“I thought that Kellen made some good decisions, especially in tersms of throwing the ball away when things weren’t there,” Mangini said. “Those are some of the best throws he made; the ones he threw out of bounds and into the stands.”
Mangini continued, praising Clemens’ ability to put previous mistakes behind him.
“He’s resilient,” the coach said, referring to Clemens short-term memory. “You like the energy he has when he takes the field, regardless of what the situation is.”
Bowens headlines impact players
Players such as OL Will Montgomery, DL Mike Devito and TE Jason Pociask all played well in getting substantial action against the Steelers. However, the player that stood out above the rest was DE David Bowens, a veteran many believed had been under-utilized thus far during the season.
Mangini said Bowens did a “nice job,” mostly referring to his presence in nickel and dime situations. Bowens pressured the quarterback often, forcing Roethlisberger to throw the ball away on more than one occasion. He finished the day with three tackles, 0.5 sacks and one quarterback hurry.
Motivation painted in black and gold?
With Giants Stadium looking and sounding more like Heinz Field for most of the game, Mangini was asked whether or not the anti-Jets crowd served as motivation for the team’s victory.
”They were noisy, but the best way to quiet that down is do positive things,” Mangini said. “They’ve got very passionate fans and I appreciate that and respect that. It’s really up to us to be able to control that with the way we play.”
The pro-Steelers crowd may serve to help the Jets next week against the Cowboys in Dallas, as Clemens and the offense stressed silent counts in the shotgun.
Thomas and Julius square off for the second time
Thursday’s showdown will be the second time that Gang Green’s running back will take on his brother.
“It’s special to be able to play with your brother on Thanksgiving,” Jones said. “This is the second time we’ve had the chance to do this. It’s exciting.”
Schedule for week
The Jets have one regular practice tomorrow and then a walk through on Wednesday closed to the media before flying to Dallas. The team will then have Friday-Sunday off.