Clemens to start vs. Bucs as Sanchez still nursing sore knee.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Just two days after stating he was “optimistic” that Mark Sanchez would play against the  Buccaneers, Rex Ryan has named Kellen Clemens the starter for Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay.

Ryan said that the decision was made after he consulted with the advice of the Jets medical staff.

“The more information I got from our doctors this morning, I just think that we’d be taking an unnecessary risk,” said Ryan.  “Every decision is always based on the player’s well-being first and then our football team.”

“This is a decision I’m comfortable with right now.”

Sanchez is being shut down completely for Sunday’s game and will not travel with the team to Tampa Bay.   The rookie will stay back in Florham, where he’ll receive three days of treatment on the injured knee.

With Mark Sanchez nursing a strained PCL, Kellen Clemens will get the starting nod Sunday in Tampa Bay ( Photo)
With Mark Sanchez nursing a strained PCL, Kellen Clemens will get the starting nod Sunday in Tampa Bay ( Photo)

Ryan also revealed that Sanchez did not take the news of his benching well, stating that the rookie was “mad as a hornet” upon hearing the news that Clemens would start.

That assessment certainly seems accurate as Sanchez appeared visibly angry and disappointed, when speaking with the media on Wednesday.

“I’m pretty upset about it,” said the rookie as he pouted at the podium.  “It’s just a frustrating part of this game.”

“It’s difficult to handle but I’m excited for Kellen and I’m backing him one hundred percent.  I think he’s going to do really well.”

It has become increasingly clear that Sanchez fully expected to play and was totally caught off guard by Ryan’s decision.  Sanchez told reporters that he tried to reason with Ryan, asking if he could practice tomorrow but was shut down by the head coach.

The organization has made it clear that the decision to bench Sanchez is by no means punitive, as a means of Ryan sending a message to the quarterback about sliding.   The move is solely based on the rookie’s health.

Sunday will mark Clemens’ first start since December 30, 2007, the final game of the ’07 season season against the Kansas City Chiefs.  In eight career starts, Clemens has compiled a record of 3-5, with a career passer rating of 59.9.

Clemens says that Ryan talked to him on Monday and told him that Sanchez wouldn’t be able to go.   This morning, Clemens was told he would be the starter on Sunday.

“I’ve been approaching the week as if that were the case,” said Clemens.  “It’s nice to know this early in the week that this is the direction we’re going.  I think for myself and the guys in the huddle.”

In limited action this season, Clemens has completed 1 of 3 pass attempts for 14 yards.   Despite an underwhelming training camp and a lack of repetitions with the first-team offense, Ryan is confident that Clemens will be able to get the job done.

“He prepares every game like he’s going to be needed,” said Ryan.  “Even last week, the numbers weren’t great, but he had to go in and finish that game and we had confidence in him.  He was smart.  I told him, (in reference to the offense’s color-coded system) ‘Hey we’re in red.’  He said. ‘No, this isn’t red, Rex, this is maroon.’  So he knows the situation of the game.”

Clemens’ teammates agree that he is more than ready to handle the challenge.   “He works at his craft,” says OT Damien Woody.  “Anytime you’re a backup quarterback, you’re always put in a rough spot.”

Braylon Edwards says that Clemens is comparable to Derek Anderson,whom Edwards played with in Cleveland.  “He has a strong arm, he throws the ball fast, he anticipates spots,” said Edwards.  “I kind of just took myself back to my time with D.A. today in practice to make up for some lost time with Kellen.  It worked.”

Clemens showed no signs of rust in today’s portion of practice that was open to the media.   The former second-round pick completed a number of fire-ball throws to receivers Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and David Clowney.

“I think everybody else on the offensive side of the ball just stepped up there with intensity and execution,” noted Clemens.  “Coach Schottenheimer challenged us to pay more attention to details, to be crisper particularly in the passing game.  It translated in one practice.”

“He looked sharp,” said Woody.  “The tempo, everything was great.  I thought that was one of the better practices of the year.”

“The tempo today was outstanding,” said Ryan.  “We actually never threw an incompletion today in our team period.  It was pretty impressive.”

Clemens feels the full week of practice with the first team will go a long way in regards to his performance on Sunday.

“It will make a huge difference,” he said.  “Getting a chance to throw to the guys, be in the huddle.  Just getting reps.  There is no substitute for getting reps.  I hadn’t thrown to Braylon yet until Monday.  I had a chance to develop some chemistry with him, reignite some chemistry with JCo, Dustin.”

The 6-6 Jets, in the midst of a playoff race, face another must-win situation in Tampa on Sunday.  Despite the high stakes, Clemens refuted the notion that the game’s importance will change his approach.

“I think I’d be a little more concerned if it was my first start ever,” he said.  “I have some experience under my belt.  I know that I have a lot of support from my teammates around me.”

“Added pressure?  As of Wednesday at 2:40, I’m not feeling it,” joked Clemens.  “Talk to me again on Sunday.”



Ground game hopes to get Buc’ wild in Tampa

With Kellen Clemens forced into a starting role for the injured Mark Sanchez, Tampa Bay could prove to be a very timely opponent for Gang Green.

It’s been a rough season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-11) and rookie head coach Raheem Morris.    The Bucs have struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball, especially against the run.

Tampa Bay has given up 160.1 yards per game on the ground, 31st in the NFL.   The Buccaneers defense has also allowed an eye-popping 27.5 points per game, also 31st in the NFL.  They have also allowed performances of 100 yards or more to five different opposing running backs.

This bodes well for Thomas Jones and the Jets, who boast the league’s leading rushing attack, garnering 168.6 yards per game.    The attack has been spearheaded by outstanding play by the offensive line, fullback Tony Richardson, and Jones.  Jones, a former Buccaneer, has rushed for 1,068 yards in ’09, eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark for the fifth straight season.

With their starting quarterback sidelined, the Jets should have no problem grounding and pounding their way to a victory against Tampa Bay’s underachieving defensive unit.

The last time the Jets led the league in rushing this late in the season was 1979, when they led the NFL with 165.4 yards per game.


QB Mark Sanchez and OT Robert Turner both sat out today’s practice with knee injuries.   CB Marquice Cole (knee), DE Shaun Ellis (knee), LB Larry Izzo (neck), and cornerbacks Dwight Lowery (ankle) and Donald Strickland (head) were limited.

LB Calvin Pace (shoulder) and S Jim Leonhard (thumb) both participated in the full practice.
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