Jets overcome three fumbles to win preseason finale in Philly, but rookie McKnight plays himself off roster
Joe McKnight juked right, running into his own blocker. Coughing it up. Again.
As Eagles safety Kurt Coleman dashed 64 yards to the opposite end zone, he gripped more than the loose pigskin in his arms. He was running with Joe McKnight’s future as player in the National Football league.
The New York Jets overcame McKnight’s fumble and two others, using a pair of second-half touchdowns to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 21-17 at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night. It won’t be as happy of an ending for the former USC Trojan, who will face punitive measures for his ball-security mishap, his third of the preseason.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan indicated after the game that the rookie running back would not be cut, but would not be placed on the active roster to begin the regular season.
“He’s going to make the team,” said Ryan. “We’re just not going to play him until we have more confidence in him, until he shows in practice that he gets the message.”
“Joe McKnight has to protect the ball. I was disappointed. Right now, I don’t see how he can make the active roster.”
On a night where no starters saw action for both teams, a number of Jets reserves showed their worth on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Mark Brunell completed 11 of 17 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Brunell’s second touchdown, a 51-yard fourth quarter strike to receiver Santonio Holmes, put the Jets ahead for good. Holmes finished the night with four receptions for 97 yards.
The Jets offense was also spearheaded by the split ground-attack of a pair of roster hopefuls turned definites, running backs Chauncey Washington (12 carries for 56 yards) and Danny Woodhead (12 carries for 45 yards, 1 TD). If Washington’s consistent steamrolling of Philadelphia safeties didn’t draw the attention of Rex Ryan, the play he made on the Jets’ opening drive of the second half, certainly did.
With the Jets offense driving down the field into Eagles’ territory, QB Kellen Clemens connected with Holmes across the Philadelphia 20-yard-line for a gain of 24 yards. Before hitting the turf, Holmes coughed up the ball which would’ve resulted in the Jets’ fourth lost fumble of the night if not for a heads up play by Washington, who quickly jumped on the loose ball.
Clemens, who left the game shortly with a left arm injury, completed 7 of 13 passes for 73 yards, orchestrating a touchdown drive that ended with a 14-yard end zone dash by Woodhead.
WR Larry Taylor, another Jet who figures to be on the bubble for one of the final roster spots, added two receptions for 21 yards and flashed some speed in the return game.
Following the exit of Eagles QB Mike Vick, the Jets defensive reserves stepped up and made it a rather rough night for Philadelphia third-stringer Mike Kafka. Kafka completed only 9 of 27 passes for 76 yards with an interception.
The Jets defense, led by six tackles and two sacks by defensive tackle Matt Kroul, held the Eagles to 187 yards of total offense, and only 72 yards on the ground.
Jets offensive coordinator handed the play-calling duties over to quarterback Mark Sanchez midway through the second quarter. Sanchez’s first shot at directing the offense resulted in a five-play, fifteen yard drive consummating with a two-yard roll-out completion from Mark Brunell to tight end Jeff Cumberland in the corner of the end zone.
Sanchez put on the headset again at the start of the fourth quarter, serving as the brains behind a 51-yard touchdown strike from Brunell to receiver Santonio Holmes, the Jets longest offensive play of the preseason. Is there a offensive coordinator controversy brewing in Jersey?
“It’s more difficult than you think,” said Sanchez. You feel bad for Schotty (Brian Schottenheimer) now because he has so much pressure to get certain guys the ball, to put in the right formation, the right personnel on the field. (There are) certain runs Coach (Bill) Callahan wants to get called. Guys want the ball, so there are so many factors. You’ve got to stick to what you think and call the plays with confidence. It was fun. We got a touchdown drive, which was nice, and a touchdown pass too.”
Getting ‘Diggy with it
Jets safety James Ihedigbo has made quite a name for himself this preseason by delivering a few bone-crunching tackles on special teams. It was more of the same for Ihedigbo on Thursday night, as he dished out punishing hits on Eagles receivers Kelley Washington and Chad Hall.
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