As Jets training camp began last month, Kellen Clemens found himself in the heat of competition. At hand was a battle with Chad Pennington, for the opportunity to lead the Jets offense in 2008. But then entered future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre into the picture and Clemens was resorted to a backup. Forward to now, just one week after Favre’s arrival, and Clemens is being pushed by another Brett. Second-year quarterback Brett Ratliff, who burst onto the scene in the preseason opening victory, (14-for-20, 252 yards, 2 TD) continues to push his way up the depth chart.
While Clemens was named the No.2 quarterback behind Favre for Saturday’s game against the Washington Redskins and the job remains his “right now,” Head Coach Eric Mangini left the door open for a possible quarterback competition between Clemens and Ratliff.
“It’s Kellen’s job right now, and we’ve got to see how the rest of camp goes. And [Kellen’s] done some things that I’ve really liked,” Mangini said. “But I’m happy with Brett [Ratliff]. I’m really happy with him. I’ve liked the way that he’s worked.”
But while Ratliff continues to impress during practice, the attention was again turned toward Favre as a crowd of 7,500 fans packed the bleachers at Weeb Ewbank Hall today. While Favre has shown flashes of his gunslinging cannon with long touchdown strikes to wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Marcus Henry, he has also resembled a 38-year old veteran with an aging arm. Aside from the highlights, Favre's new offensive coordinator couldn't be happier about his quarterback's progression.
"He's doing good," Brian Schottenheimer said. "He's had a lot going on, there's been a lot of things that he's had to get acclimated to whether it's finding the lunch room, learning the playbook, studying film and all that stuff. I'm very pleased."
But with the progress that has been made, the 38-year old quarterback admitted his arm was “fatigued” following yesterday’s practice. With that in mind, the Jets have carefully monitored Favre’s practice reps.
“It’s all feedback-based, trying to figure out where we can target the reps and still make sure that you’re not doing too much, too quickly, and it’s constant give and take there,” Mangini said.
Along with monitoring Favre’s throws, the Jets have also focused intently on the quarterback’s learning curve.
“We’ve tried all different approaches. Some of it is watching our tape, the things that he has not done so he can see that. Some extended walk-thrus; some of watching his tape to equate plays,” Mangini said. “He’s into crossword puzzles, so take the information put it in a form of crossword puzzle and give him that.”
For Favre, an 18-year veteran, past experience becomes a key.
"When you're dealing with a smart guy who's played as much as he has, there's really not much he hasn't seen," said Schottenheimer. "He's done a good job, we've noticed already."
Favre surely has seen alot of different offensive and defensive looks throughout his career. Schottenheimer recalled quarterback meetings, where Favre has studied certain plays and and tied them to routes his receivers ran years ago.All the quarterbacks can do is laugh.
During today’s practice, Favre again stayed away from throwing the deep ball, as he limited many of his passes to underneath routes. During Favre’s first two 11-on-11 drills, he combined to throw only six passes, five of which he completed. Favre’s finest throw of the session came later in the practice, as he threw a 20-yard strike to tight end Dustin Keller on an out-pattern along the left sidelines. Perhaps Favre got too greedy however, as a few snaps later, his threw a pass into tight coverage downfield(intended for Cotchery), and safety Kerry Rhodes came away with the interception.
Although Favre is still learning the offense, Favre's receivers are growing more comfortable with their new leader.
“Things are going in the right direction, especially with the communication part of it. Hopefully the chemistry will just continue to build each and every day,” Cotchery said. “We’re looking forward to getting better out there on Saturday, hopefully we can come away with another victory.”
For the Jets’ other quarterbacks, today’s practice was filled with inconsistency. Clemens’ lone highlight came during an 11-on-11, as the quarterback split the seams to wide receiver David Clowney on a 20-yard touchdown. While Clemens’ aggressiveness proved successful on Clowney’s touchdown, it came back to bite him later in practice. Against the second-team defense in an 11-on-11 drill, Clemens attempted to fit a pass into wide receiver Wallace Wright along the sidelines, but cornerback Ahmad Carroll jumped the route and came away with an interception.
While Schottenheimer has had the pleasure of working with one of the NFL greats, developing younger quarterbacks like Clemens and Ratliff is an important part of the business.
"I think as a coach, one of the things you take pride in is trying to develop the younger players," Schottenheimer said. "You realize in this business that it's not about years but about depth."
The Jets will see just how much their quarterbacks have learned, as Gang Green continues its preseason schedule Saturday against the Redskins.
In an interesting turn of events, the Jets re-signed running back Rodney Kinlaw, who was placed on waivers by the team Tuesday. Kinlaw had previously signed with the Jets on Aug. 1. To open a spot on the 80-man roster, Gang Green released fullback Justin Green, who was acquired off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens Tuesday.
The Jets reached an injury settlement with offensive lineman Clint Oldenburg, meaning he is officially a free-agent.
Franks Teaches Brett
For the past eight seasons, tight end Bubba Franks was one of Favre’s favorite targets. During his time with the Packers, Franks caught 256 passes, 32 of those for touchdowns. Now the two are re-united, and Franks has been here to help the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“They’re friends, they played together. He helped translate some of the nuances, maybe some of our plays with their plays,” Mangini noted. “It’s always good when you go somewhere new and someone you have experience with is there.”
The Jets coaching staff has had extended walk-throughs, game-tape sessions and crossword puzzles to help Favre learn the offense, but Franks has especially helped Favre’s learning curve.
“You talk about translating, Bubba is the guy who can actually translate the best from anybody because he was just there with Brett last year,” Schottenheimer said. “Whereas with me or Coach [Bill] Callahan, it’s a little bit different, the system that he comes from.”
McChesney’s Motor is Always Running
Offensive lineman Matt McChesney, (6-foot-4, 307 pounds) is one player who does not need to improve his motor on the practice field. The second-year lineman has caught Mangini’s eye during training camp with his impressive combination of strength and speed.
“I love Matt. He’s a tough, tough guy. Sometimes with Matt, you have to tell him to slow down a little bit because he’s a hammer and everything is like a nail,” Mangini said. “Sometimes you can’t do that. He likes to blow everybody up, that’s a good mentality on the defensive side; on the offensive side, you’ve got to be slower.”
Nugent’s Kick Leaves Everyone Happy
At the conclusion of practice Mangini put some pressure on kicker Mike Nugent. This time, the Jets’ kicker came through. Nugent nailed a 48-yard field goal, earning the team a night off from meetings and no curfew. "That was a good part [of practice]," Cotchery said. "That was a great moment in practice right there."
Burgess Gets Return Work
Along with an emphasis on the red area, the Jets focused on special teams work. Joining cornerbacks Justin Miller and Darrell Revis and running back Jesse Chatman on kickoff returns was cornerback Rudy Burgess.
Defensive end Shaun Ellis (hand) missed his eighth consecutive practice and continues to wear a cast on his right hand. Ellis is not expected to play Saturday against the Washington Redskins
Wide receiver Lavernanues Coles (undisclosed injury) missed his second consecutive practice. The nine-year veteran limped off the practice field yesterday morning and spent most of today’s session on the stationary bike.
Linebacker Jason Trusnik (undisclosed injury) remains on the PUP List and did not practice.