Practice number one from Weeb Ewbank Hall is complete, as Gang Green spent the rainy morning running through unit drills. The quarterback battle was again a hot topic as both Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington competed in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 passing drills. While the defense looked strong in drills, I would give Pennington the edge for the morning session. While Pennington was by no means sharp, he made fewer mistakes than Clemens. Clemens lone blunder came against “drop 8 coverage,” as he threw a pass right to OLB Eric Barton for an easy interception. But even after a poor practice by Clemens, this quarterback battle should go right down to the final week of preseason. Barring injury or an incredible turnaround by Gang Green’s two signal callers, the race is just too close for Eric Mangini to call. Obviously the Jets like Clemens’ arm strength, but Pennington is also showing more zip on his passes, which he admits to be working on.
With DE/OLB Vernon Gholston “close” as Mangini reported in his post-practice press conference, it has to make everyone happy that number 56 should be on the practice field within the next few days. Even though we haven’t even made it through a full day of training camp, Gholston had already missed a portion of the team’s June mini-camp because he was still completing classes at Ohio State. It’s tough enough for any rookie to become acquainted with NFL playbooks, especially Mangini’s complex defensive system. The learning curve becomes even tougher when away from the field. So even with the Baker contract dispute still an important issue, Gholston’s situation should be the main focus. As we’ve seen with several other players, (i.e. Bryan Thomas) a stellar college season does not automatically translate into instant success on Sundays. Bottom line, get Gholston signed and on the field.
Even with the clowdy quarterback situation, I still have very positive feelings about the Jets’ offense. With the addition of six-time all-pro guard Alan Faneca along with Damien Woody at right tackle and Tony Richardson at fullback, the Jets are going to be opening holes for Thomas Jones and company. Even though Jones received a lot of criticism for his 2007 performance, he still managed to rush for 1,119 yards behind a poor offensive line. The running game will only get better, especially if the Jets get Chris Baker (a underappreciated blocker) on the field. That’s not even mentioning the wide receiver unit. Along with the always-reliable Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets have nice options for the third and forth receiver spots. With Brad Smith back in practice and looking healthy, and Chansi Stuckey still showing soft hands, the targets are there.
I have to admit, RB Danny Woodhead is impressive, both speed and strength wise. As she showed in the previous camps and now after one training camp practice, he makes sharp cuts in and out of holes. He always hits the hole with speed, showing why he rushed for 7,962 yards at D-II Chadron State. Despite only standing at 5-foot-9, 200 lbs, Woodhead displayed his strength as he carried would-be tacklers for almost ten yards on one run today. He also managed to hold onto the ball as defenders tried to rip it away. But even with those noticeable strengths, I have a tough time seeing Woodhead as a member of the Jets this season. With Jones, Leon Washington, Jesse Chatman, Musa Smith and Jehuu Caulcrick already in camp, it will be tough to find an opening. Yet again, there’s still a long way to go.
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