INSIDER FRIDAY TEAM REPORT
By Rich Forestano
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
December 26th, 2008
Who would’ve thought of this scenario? The man Gang Green showed the door back in August when they traded for future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre may just show the Jets the door this Sunday. The Jets desperately need a win to have a chance to enter the 12-team tourney and much more considering they need Buffalo to somehow beat the streaking Patriots or the Jaguars to upend the rolling Ravens.
Both seem possible, although unlikely since the Jets can’t seem to capitalize on opportunities against their last three opponents that combine for a 17-28 record. With the Bill Cowher talks sparking after the crushing loss to Seattle and the “Same Old Jets” discussions looming, what’s in store for this franchise over the next few weeks makes for intriguing storylines and delicious water-cooler banter.
The Jets have lost three of their last four games and have looked stymied on the field when it came to executing in clutch situations (see Favre any time during the Seahawks game) and have been unable to stop the run over the past four weeks giving up 534 rushing yards over that span. That’s a 133.5 yards per game average. On offense, they’ve been horrid in third down efficiency, something that certainly cost them many opportunities in the Emerald City last weekend.
“Some of it has been a function of drops,” head coach Eric Mangini said about third downs. “Some of it has been a function of not getting open when we need to against tight manto-man coverage. A few of the throws could have been better.”
“I think guys are doing the best they can do at this point,” WR Laveranues Coles said. “I think all you can do is take a play at this point and try to execute it to the best of your ability. That is pretty much it. If I could put my finger on it, I wouldn’t be in this locker room. I’d be upstairs coaching.”
The offensive line protection could’ve been better too. The Jets gave up four sacks against a Seattle defense that recorded 34 sacks all year and they were missing cogs to the defensive unit. The Dolphins have piled up 40 sacks so far and will be an even bigger challenge to for LG Alan Faneca and Co. this weekend.
The protection of Favre has been a key to the Jets success this season. However, it has been non-existent as of late and likely played a part in the digression of the recently maligned offensive unit that has averaged 273 net yards over the past three weeks.
“We had a protection issue last week where we gave up a sack on a third down, which was really a look that we had seen and they had shown, and I thought we could have handled better,” he said. “It's also us going back and evaluating the plays we're calling and making sure that we're calling the plays that really give us the best chance there.”
Gang Green has seen its fair share of drops, most notably Coles’ missed opportunity last week that could’ve given the Jets life late in the fourth quarter. QB Brett Favre has been victimized by drops this year, but has declined in production, recording only one touchdown over the last three games, yet throwing six interceptions. Some say it’s because of the mysterious shoulder injury, others say that it’s because he’s on the back nine of his NFL career. He’s been on the back nine for about four or five years now and hasn’t really underperformed that bad until now.
“It's one piece in a bigger puzzle,” Mangini said. “He's one player. We've had a lot of new players that we've incorporated in the system, whether it be free agents or draft picks. It never comes down to one guy.”
Well, this “one” guy was supposed to be the “one” guy that executed when the chips were down and no one believed the Jets could come out on top. He did that against New England and the Titans, but as of late, at least to the media and fans, no.
“Brett was, what we felt, one piece in the puzzle,” the coach said of acquiring Favre. “We were happy with him then, we're happy with him now and that doesn't change. It's a function of him and us collectively playing the way that we need to play.”
Miami’s one piece in QB Chad Pennington has already proven the naysayers that he still has what it takes to play in this league and (along with Titans QB Kerry Collins) is a front-runner for the Comeback Player of the Year Award. The former Jet will make his case more clear with a win this Sunday.
“He's a hard worker,” Mangini said. “I never felt that with working with Chad, even coming off the arm injury, that it was about proving somebody wrong or proving something right. It was about being the best player he could be. That's something I've always respected in him.”
To say Pennington is not trying to prove something this weekend is ludicrous. He’s taken Miami from 1-15 team in 2007 and guided them into becoming one of the top teams in the AFC. This sounds like the time when Favre took a 4-12 Green Bay Packers team two years ago and turned them into a NFC Championship contender.
Pennington was neck-and-neck with QB Kellen Clemens during training camp before the Favre trade. Most people felt he was ahead of Clemens. However, the Jets felt his best days were behind him. He’s been on a mission ever since.
"If you don’t have those expectations for your self as an individual, especially as a quarterback, you don’t believe you can help change a team, help a team and a lead a team to victory, you really don’t have business being behind a center,” Pennington said.
“Chad has style of play and Brett has his,” CB Ty Law said. “The one intangible they do have is that they’re both leaders. They are both going to lead and take the responsibility as a quarterback. They are both doing a great job. I think Chad had a lot of skeptics coming into the season being released and he went down there and did one (heck) of a job. I’m proud of the job he’s doing.”
Everyone knows about the concerns of Brett Favre’s shoulder. Coach Mangini said that Brett at this time of the year historically is sore and that it happens with a lot of players. Favre, as most know, is a straight shooter and is rarely vague about the issue at hand. “I'm sure if we MRI'd enough, we'd probably find something (smiling),” Favre said Wednesday. “During the course of the year, there were numerous times where I had been asked about my shoulder. It had been hit a couple times. I don't know. Just knowing my body, there may be something, but there's no test yet to reveal anything.” Favre iterated that he feels he can make any throw and that he feels fine. “I'm able to go out,” he said. “I practiced yesterday. I know you don't stay around for the whole practice, but I threw the ball. I felt pretty good yesterday, considering it was a Tuesday. I have had my moments. I think it will reveal one way or another if there is something wrong. I don't want to make a big deal of it.” Then why not have the shoulder tested to make sure? “We talked to Brett about that and we’ve monitored his progression, his history and this isn’t an uncommon form,” Mangini said. It almost seems they rather not know if he’s hurt or not. “I can tell you that were always involved,” he said.
Too caught up with other games
New England plays at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday and the Ravens play at 4:00. These are the games that Jets fans will be checking the scoreboard and NFL.com to see if their playoff hopes alive. “I’m sure the score will come up at some point, but you can’t get tied into that,” Mangini said.
Trying to deal with the task at hand
The outside talk and speculation that has been swirling around Mangini over the past two weeks concerning his job and the “Cowher” watch must be getting to him right? “I don’t have that active a social life so it’s pretty much here (work) to home and that’s it,” he said. “I don’t listen to that much talk radio.”
New England rooting for the Jets?
The Patriots need the Jets to win this Sunday. It’s ironic that they need their archrival to be successful to give them a chance at postseason play. “It’s part of the game,” CB Ty Law said. “When you’re (the pats) in a situation you’re always rooting for the other team to win or lose or what not because everyone is selfish at this time of the year. It’s not strange at all.”
Any advantage helps
This will mark the 20th time the Dolphins and Jets have met in the month of December, but just the fourth time in East Rutherford. The Jets are 9-7 in the 16 December games decided in Miami, but are 2-1 in matchups at home.
Chad’s numbers at his old stomping grounds
In 37 career regular season games at the Meadowlands, Chad Pennington has completed 660 of 1,010 passes (65.3%) for 7,064 yards with 47 TD and 29 INT with a passer rating of 89.3.
In 10 of the past 12 years, the season series between the Dolphins and Jets has resulted in a sweep. This includes three by the Dolphins (1996-97, 2003) and seven by the Jets (1998-2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007). Overall, there has been a sweep of this two-game series 31 of the previous 42 years, including 14 by the Dolphins and 17 by the Jets.
Needs one more
Brett Favre has started 268 consecutive games. With this Sundays start against Miami he will be one short of the overall record for regular season starts (270) held by former Minnesota DL Jim Marshall (1961-1979).