Exactly two weeks from the initial cutdowns to 75, the Jets are in a bit of a pickle around one very important roster spot that could potentially create a domino theory for the rest of their roster.
Kellen Clemens work last Friday validated what the Jets had hoped from their second year QB, that he looks ready to ascend to the second QB on the roster. So, if Clemens is the #2, what does that mean for Brad Smith and Tuiasosopo?
Keep in mind that roster spots are a precious commodity, and carrying four Quarterbacks is a ridiculous notion, unless you are the Tampa Bay Bucs. As of a 1995 rule change, the 3rd QB is designated as an emergency, and he’s not allowed to enter the game until the 4th Quarter.
If the Jets are looking to streamline their roster this year (i.e. by not carrying four RBs during the season) and freeing up other spots likely at Wide Receiver or on the defensive Front Seven. Freeing this QB spot could be huge for keeping on a player to help the defense or allow them to move more freely from a 3-4 to a 4-3 or whatever else Mangini has up his sleeve.
But with Pennington, Clemens, Tui and Smith … how do you dole out the assignments?
Now the coaches will give you the typical “flexible game by game” rhetoric, but I think the Jets hope that they can release Tui, and slot Smith as the “official” second QB, thus allowing him ability to play all throughout the game. Even so, Clemens will likely hold the clipboard, just like he would as the #2, the only difference being that in the instance that the Jets need Clemens, they can’t use him until the fourth quarter. It’s a gamble, but one that I think would benefit the team over the course of the season versus the one betweener moment where you need that backup.
So how do the Jets determine this? I think a lot has to come from the next three preseason games. Pennington will likely see more time this Friday on the field (heck, he might actually attempt a pass!) but I am guessing that the Jets want to mix in Brad Smith some more to give him more game experience. Also, I would expect to see more from Tui than we did last week. Yes Clemens needs his reps just like any young QB, but Pennington needs time the least right now, it’s the other guys at whom the Jets have to look.
The problem with Smith is that he is a scrambler, and even though he might be as fast as a leopard, leopards don’t change their spots. Smith is defintely a wrinkle for defenses to deal with, but it also means that he is something different for the offensive line and the receivers, in terms of throwing tendencies, where to block, etc. Also, we all know Smith doesn’t have a great arm as he can float some passes and he gives up on his reads rather quickly.
In my mind I think Smith will win out, but I imagine the Jets will give Tui a serious look to see if they run a more traditional system at QB this year … which will then be one less roster spot for the Jets to use elsewhere.