Jets RB Jesse Chatman had a strong outing against the Eagles as the Jets win 27-20. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
In the week leading up to tonight's preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini titled his cards. After starting Brett Favre the previous two games, Mangini subtly hinted Favre had seen his final snaps before the Sept. 7 opener in Miami. Mangini faced a complex scenario, play his golden-arm quarterback and risk injury, or hand him the clipboard. The Jets head coach chose the latter tonight, as the combination of Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge led Gang Green to a 27-20 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
With Favre watching from the sidelines aside his starting counterparts, the Jets used the legs of running back Jesse Chatman to wear down the Eagles' defense. Chatman gained 93 yards on 29 carries and added six catches for 87 yards in his most extensive work this preseason.
In the Jets' previous three games this preseason, Chatman combined to rush for 71 yards on just 22 carries, but with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington given the night off, the sixth-year running back made the most of his opportunity.
"In this game you seldon get opportunities and every chance you get you've got to take advantage of it," Chatman said. "I had 35 chances and I found my best to take advantage of it every time I touched [the ball]."
Chatman shined when it mattered most, as his two-yard touchdown handed the Jets a 27-20 lead with just 6:26 remaining in the fourth quarter. After receiving just 22 carries in the Jets' previous three preseason games, reaching the endzone was more than satisfying for Chatman.
"After the hard work I've been putting in during the offseason, now it's preseason time, live action, and any running back wants to get into the endzone," Chatman said.
Jehuu Caulcrick (two carries for two yards) who has been featured primarily at fullback in preseason play, was the only other Jet back to carry the ball. With the running game paving the way, Mangini was not about to change the pace.
"[Chatman] was one of the few running backs we had on the roster, so the bulk of it came down to him and I thought we were running the ball pretty well, especially early in the second half, so I wanted to keep going with that," Mangini explained.
Following the touchdown, the Eagles drove to the Jets' 34-yard line with 2:52 remaining, but cornerback Hank Poteat preserved the lead by intercepting Eagles quarterback A.J. Feely. After a quick three-and-out series by the Gang Green offense, the Eagles got the ball back at their own 38-yard line with just 2:09 left. Philadelphia drove to the Jets' 32-yard line, but Feely's 4th and-10 pass fell incomplete.
As a relieved Jets defense trotted off the field, Ainge took a knee to run out the clock, preserving the Jets' victory. The knee was the end of a busy night for the rookie quarterback, who completed 10-of-16 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown. With the Jets down 13-10 early in the third quarter, Ainge hit wide receiver David Ball for a six-yard score.
After throwing zero passes in the Jets' first three preseason games, the Jets' fifth-round draft choice was able to develop a level of comfort and end the preseason on a high note.
"I felt more comfortable today just because I was able to get rep after rep after rep," Ainge said.
Although Ainge led Gang Green to victory while playing turnover-free football, Mangini was less than thrilled about his signal-caller's performance.
"He did a couple good things," Mangini said. "There were some throws I thought he could have brought up a little bit, they were a bit low."
Clemens struggled in his limited action, going 3-for-8 for just 18 yards. Ratliff was 3-for-4 for 48 yards, highlighted by a 11-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Paul Raymond.
Now with the season opener approaching on Sept. 7, the Jets can turn to Favre to lead the offense. Although Favre discussed his desire to play in tonight's game throughout the past week, he understood Mangini's decision to sit him.
"I understood why [Eric Mangini] didn't want to play the starters; it was understandable," Favre said. "Sure I wanted to play but it wasn't a big deal. I never really brought it up."
Jets Keep Streak Alive
Tonight’s win improved the Jets’ record to 8-1 over the Eagles in the preseason since 1999. Interestingly enough, Philadelphia has won all eight regular season matchups between the two teams.
Stuckey In Secondary
Wide receiver Chansi Stuckey played multiple snaps aside David Barrett at cornerback for Gang Green and was beaten early in the first quarter by Eagles wide receiver Michael Gasperson for a seven-yard completion. Stuckey said that he learned Monday from the coaches that he would likely get reps at defensive back. He ended the night with three tackles, in what proved to be the first time he had ever suited up at cornerback in his two-year career.
Despite the limited work, Mangini knows Stuckey has the tools to succeed in the secondary.
"He'd been working there some throughout camp and hasn't really gotten very many reps inside there so he does have very good short area quickness and the ability to react," Mangini said.
-Jets punter Ben Graham and Eagles punter Sav Rocca are both former Australian Football League stars. Graham played 12 years with the Geelong Cats (1992-2004), while Rocca spent his career with the Collingwood Magpies (1992-1999) and Melbourne Kangaroos (2000-2006). Tonight marked the third time that two former Australian Football League players have played against each other in an NFL game.
-Jets linebacker Marques Murrell signed with the Eagles in 2007 as a rookie free agent out of Appalachian State University and spent time on their practice squad.
-Eagles quarterback A.J. Feely played with the San Diego Chargers in 2005, where his quarterbacks coach was Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
-Jets running backs coach Jimmy Raye played defensive back for the Eagles in 1969, while defensive back coach Jerome Henderson played at defensive back for Philadelphia in 1995. Jets offensive line coach Bill Callahan served in the same role for the Eagles from 1995-1997.
-In 1997-1998 while with the Packers, Brett Favre threw 66 combined touchdown passes. His 35 touchdown strikes in 1997 earned him his third consecutive NFL MVP award. His quarterback coach at the time was Andy Reid, who is now the Eagles head coach.
Lowery Held Out
Rookie cornerback Dwight Lowery, who is battling David Barrett and Justin Miller for the starting job alongside Darrelle Revis, did not play. Mangini said his decision to sit Lowery was solely based on his preference to get the other members of the secondary some work.
"Justin [Miller] is still working through his injury situation and I wanted to work David Barrett and Hank [Poteat] both at safety to get them some experience there," Mangini said. "I also wanted to see Drew [Coleman] more outside, wanted to see Batman more outside so I thought that was the best way to do it."
Mangini's decision to rest Lowery with the starters tonight could mean that the rookie cornerback will be starting Sept. 7 against Miami.
Tonight proved to be a relatively injury-free night for the Jets. Linebacker Jason Trusnik (leg) remains on the Reserve/PUP list and did not play. Miller (toe) remains out and his status for next Sunday's season opener remains uncertain. As far as wide receiver Laveranues Coles and defensive end Shaun Ellis-both of whom have not played during the preseason-their playing status for the season opener also remains unknown.
Grading the Jets
Following three lackluster performances from the Jets' running game, watching the Jets rush for 120 yards on 35 carries was certainly a welcomed site, even if it came against the Eagles' backups. The Jets' quarterback trio of Ainge, Clemens and Ratliff did not light up the scoreboard but were efficient and turnover-free.
After looking shaky while Eagles starting quarterback Kevin Kolb (13-for-21, 138 yards) was under center, the Jets' defense stood firm. Other than a 54-yard connection from Feely to Gasperson, Gang Green limited the big plays. The only area the Jets were lacking was the pass rush, where they excelled last week in totaling eight sacks. Tonight, they were shutout in that all-important area.
One too many big returns were allowed by Gang Green tonight. Quintin Demps totaled 137 yards (34.3 avg) on his four kickoff returns for the Eagles. Jets kicker Mike Nugent enjoyed a pefect night, nailing his attempts from 22 and 34 yards. The Jets' Ahmad Carroll had a nice 40-yard kickoff return, but was also tackled by Eagles kicker David Akers on the play. Certainly that is a no-no for any returner.
After three games of sitting on the bench, it was about time to give Ainge some snaps. The Jets drafted Ainge in the fifth round of April's draft, so they obviously saw potential in the young quarterback. Also, Mangini decided to play it safe and not risk injury by featuring his starters. That is always a difficult but wise decision.
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