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INSIDER THURSDAY EARLY CAMP REPORT

By Richard Forestano
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
July 24th, 2008
A noticeably slimmer NT Kris Jenkins participates in his first official practice as a NY Jet. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
A noticeably slimmer NT Kris Jenkins participates in his first official practice as a NY Jet. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Soggy fields, wet pigskin and rain drops. Day one of Jets Training Camp was met with torrential downpours, but tapered off later during the morning practice at Hofstra’s Weeb Ewbank Hall.

“It’s nothing new,” RB Leon Washington said. “It’s the norm to play in bad weather so it didn’t really affect us.

Individual drills dominated the first part of the cloudy Thursday morning followed by 11 on 11 drills. The defense shined at first when QB Kellen Clemens threw an interception right into the gut of OLB Eric Barton intended for WR Laveranues Coles. Clemens was seen chatting with Barton after the play.

“I wanted to know why he [Barton] was there because the defense dropped back eight into coverage and it’s one of the harder coverages to read,” Clemens said. “I wanted to know what he saw so that I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.”

Two plays later, Clemens hit recently signed rookie TE Dustin Keller on a 7-yard crossing route. The ball was thrown to Keller’s back shoulder.

“I overran the route a bit but managed to catch it,” Keller said. “It was a good ball, but I overran it.”

QB Chad Pennington feels that even though it’s only the first day, strides were made.

“I think you have to come out here with a purpose every time you step out on the field,” he said. “You come out here with one or two fundamentals you want to stress with yourself and then work on getting better at your position.”

Kick return drills were the main attraction after the conclusion of the first run through 11 on 11 and DB Justin Miller shined, exhibiting blazing speed. He’s been working on that during the offseason.

“I’ve been working on my speed to get the edge that I’ll need when I’m on defense,” Miller said. “It’s paying off in other situations like the kick return game.”

Gang Green offense and defense then went to 7 on 7 snaps. For the most part of the day, and during these drills, Pennington showcased an accurate arm and more zip on his spiral. He hit TE Bubba Franks on two ten yard stop routes. Clemens followed with a floater over the head of WR Brad Smith and a completed screen pass to RB Leon Washington.

“I’ve tried hard in the offseason to change my mechanics,” Pennington said. “I want to maintain consistent velocity to complete all my throws. It’s still a work in progress.”

Pennington said that he embraces the competition that he has in Clemens and that it will make the both of them much better players.

“He’s a true competitor,” he said. “Kellen and I feed off of each others energy and use it to make us better.”

Chad’s not new to QB competitions.

“I am no stranger to competition,” he said. “I’ve had it through the last three years and you have to react as a professional. You have to accordingly handle your business, handle it with class and move on.”

The defense was by far the most impressive unit of the morning practice. DB Kerry Rhodes had two batted passes during 7 on 7 drills. One was on a crossing route from QB Brett Ratliff TE Bubba Franks and the other was on a post pattern from QB Erik Ainge to WR Marcus Henry.

“It’s the first day and I felt that I played better than I thought I would for a first day,” Rhodes said. “All in all, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The quarterbacks were anything but spectacular on the rainy day in Hempstead. However, Brett Ratliff had the best throw of the day out of the QB position when he hit WR Paul Raymond in stride on a go route down the left sideline.

“When I let it go, it kind of slipped out of my hand,” Ratliff said. “I thought it was going to sail but he caught over his shoulder.”

In terms of consistency, Pennington was the most accurate during the morning session. His passes had zip, accuracy and the right placement. Clemens showed some flashes here and there but never really honed in on receivers the way Pennington did and had too many overthrown balls. It may only be day one, but as it looks, it’s Pennington 1, Clemens 0 for now.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Gholston Close

Noticeaby absent from the first sesson was top pick LB Vernon Gholston which marks the second camp in a row where the Jets start with their top pick holding out. Don't fret though Jets fans, as he'll likely be on the field very soon. Sources tell JI that a deal in principle has been reached and just a few minor details need to be worked out. Coach Mangini opened his presser saying they were close with the former Ohio State star and word around the press room is that he could be at today's late practice.

Baker Sighting

Even though recently put on the PUP list, disgruntled TE Chris Baker was on hand after practice to take questions from the media. The interesting thing was that he wasn’t throwing the organization under the bus or being his usual angry self.

“Right now I’m just trying to get back on the field and get it together,” Baker said.

When asked as to whether or not his feelings have changed.

“Yes because I want to get out here and on the field,” he said. “I miss the team.”

This is coming from a man who was saying that if any player wants a deal done, make sure they get it in writing.

According to Baker, he wants it to be over. He was very toned down.

“The two sides are talking and I’ll let them handle it now,” he said.

Pennington reveals he had a bad wheel all of last season

To the surprise of many, Pennington revealed to the media this morning that he played all of last season with two torn ligaments in his right ankle. The injury occured in the opening game against New England and the QB sat out the next weekend in Baltimore. In retrospect, Pennington feels he could have let it heal for a few more weeks before returning.

"It was an injury I could have taken three weeks off," said the QB. "But you guys know how I am. I don't believe in that."

Pennington also said that he had to adjust his footwork and shift his weight to compensate for the pain.

The injury could explain why a lot of his long passes fell short, especially the sideline routes where more velocity is needed. Now that he's healed we will see if it improves his throwing motion and footwork.

CFL REPS AT HOFSTRA

A scout from the Edmonton Eskimos and the general manager of the Montreal Alouettes were on hand and watching Gang Green practice.

Clay Busch of the Eskimos was on hand to take a look at the lesser known players.

“We look at all the players that may not make the team,” he said. You’d be surprised to see what we can find in the states that excel in Canada.”

GM Jim Popp was in attendance to look at specific defensive players, but he wasn’t telling.

“I’m looking at defense and that’s all I can say,” Popp said. “There’s a lot of talent out there waiting to shine.”

In Canada, a football field is 110-yards long and 12 men can be on each side of the ball. In the CFL, a formation is used that is similar to one in the AFL (Arena Football League) where the receiver starts out in the backfield and sprints towards the line. Also, it’s mandated by the CFL that 50% of a teams’ roster be Canadian.

Late practice is at 5:30. Be sure to check back to JI for a complete report and all the latest NY Jets news and rumors.

TRAINING CAMP PHOTO GALLERY: For over 160 exclusive Jets Insider.com training camp photos CLICK HERE

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