Pennington’s Miscues Doom The Jets

Everything that could have gone wrong for the New York Jets did in their 2005-2006 season opener. The mantra under Head Coach Herman Edwards has always been controlling time of possession and minimizing turnovers and penalties. None of that happened on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and that is why the Jets nearly got shutout for the first time in a decade, in an embarrassing 27-7 loss.

As a die-hard supporter of Gang Green, it is obviously painful to hear the team lose. It’s also infuriating not to be able to watch the game, but it makes matters worse when the Jets played as terrible as they did on Sunday. On the offensive side of the ball, Chad Pennington managed to fumble the ball six times, Curtis Martin rushed for a measly 57 yards, and the leading receiver was Chris Baker, the tight-end. This was not supposed to be the way that the Jets started the new season.

The team purposely fired Paul Hackett at the end of last season because of his relentless conservative play calling. However, I can’t remember when the Jets ever scored seven total points in a game during Hackett’s tenure. Throughout the offseason, the Jets new offensive coordinator, Mike Heimerdinger, formerly of the Titans, steadfastly spoke of how he was going to open up the playbook and expand the field in ways Jet fans had not seen in recent memory. Against a Chiefs defense that had been ranked last for the last few years, the Jet offense was only able to manage one touchdown, which was thrown not by Pennington, but by backup QB Jay Fiedler. Granted, the Jet offense gained more total yards than the Chiefs offense, but the team obviously had nothing to show for it.

Although I’d like to put this one game behind me, it is hard to see Pennington making huge strides immediately. His transformation into butterfingers can be traced back to the third game of the preseason against the Giants. In that game, he played half a quarter, and he lost a fumble and threw two interceptions. On Sunday, he fumbled six times and threw an interception.

Blame needs to be shared all around the team, especially with Pro-Bowl center Kevin Mawae. I understand learning a new offense can be difficult, but this is what preseason is for. Once the season begins, there are no excuses for these ridiculous mistakes.

Furthermore, it did not help that wide receiver Laveranues Coles dropped two sure touchdowns. Neither he nor Justin McCariens could establish themselves in any way. Moreover, the player whom the Jets traded a first-round pick for in this year’s draft, tight end Doug Jolley, had two catches for 18 yards. Add all this up and it equates to horrible numbers, terrible execution and a nightmarish afternoon for the entire offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, it wasn’t much brighter. Last year, defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson implemented new schemes, blitzes and packages to transform the unit into an elite defensive club. This year, the expectations are even higher, especially with the acquisition of Pro-Bowl cornerback Ty Law. However, Sunday was not a good beginning. The defense allowed nearly 400 yards of offense to the Chiefs, half of which came on the ground. That ratio brings back horrible memories of the Ted Cottrell days, when the defense gave up at least 200 rushing yards on a weekly basis. The leaders of the defense, linebacker Jonathon Vilma and defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, were neither seen nor heard from. Robertson finished the game with one tackle and all Vilma had to show for his efforts at the end of the day was a swollen eye. During the end of the game, Vilma and backup DT James Reed, frustrated by their performances, got entangled on the sidelines and ended up exchanging punches. Maybe the Jets should try translating all that pent up anger onto the field against their opponents.

In the third and final aspect of the game, special teams, the returns were not all that terrible. The Jets’ new kickoff and punt returner, rookie cornerback Justin Miller, had a productive afternoon in totaling nearly 200 total yards. After everyone questioned his ability to field punts, he turned out to be just fine. Unfortunately, the results from rookie kicker Mike Nugent were not too promising. He was brought in to make Jet fans forget about Doug Brien; however, all he did was exacerbate the problem. On his one attempt, he ended up slipping on the grass and having his kick blocked.

Amidst the embarrassment, there were a few bright spots on Sunday. Backup QB Jay Fielder made the most of his limited time, throwing a late touchdown pass to Baker. who had a great day in totaling 126 yards on seven receptions. The aforementioned Law had an interception, but did little to help to help the porous defense. Of course, we can’t say Jet defense without mentioning the enigmatic DE John Abraham. Abraham, who held out from most of training camp due to a contract dispute, played sparingly and registered one sack.

It was only one game, but it was a tough one to digest for players, fans and coaches alike. The Jets can erase this memory by crushing divisional rival Miami on Sunday. As the home opener, expect the house to be rocking, and hopefully Jet fans will have something pleasant to read about.