Tuesday, September 4, 2007
By J.P. PELZMAN
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- In retrospect, the Jets' second series of their preseason opener against Atlanta was a momentous occasion.
It was the last time the whole first-string offense was on the field at the same time. Not that it did much on that possession, managing only one first down before punting.
That unit figures to convene again on the FieldTurf of Giants Stadium sometime during the first quarter of Sunday's regular-season opener against New England, and the question remains of just how effective it will be.
After he carried eight times for 27 yards and a touchdown in that game, new running back Thomas Jones suffered a strained right calf in practice two days later, and hasn't played since. But the fact that the Jets have only two "pure" running backs on the roster seems to indicate they are pretty certain he'll play Sunday.
In Jones' absence, the Jets' first-string offense struggled in the next two preseason games, with backup running back Leon Washington's 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Pennington their one shining moment and lone touchdown.
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But Pennington still is convinced the offense will be able to put it together, just as it did on opening day against Tennessee last season when Pennington passed for 319 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-16 victory.
"We had a really good spring and a really good training camp and the guys have been able to make progress," Pennington said Thursday after sitting out the Jets' preseason finale. "We just haven't performed as well as we would have liked in the preseason games.
"I'm not going to get discouraged about that because there are a lot of different factors that go into preseason games. ... We've got some veteran guys in the receiving corps and veterans across the board that know what to do once the regular season starts, so I don't think we'll have a problem."
And certainly the Jets already have been the recipients of some good fortune, as the Patriots will be without two defensive standouts.
Defensive end Richard Seymour was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list with an undisclosed injury, so he'll be out for at least six games. And safety Rodney Harrison will miss four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
But as coach Eric Mangini always preaches, the Jets are focusing more on themselves and what they must do.
"I'm very excited to see what we can do out there," seventh-year wide receiver Justin McCareins said Monday, "and I think we're as prepared as possible. ... Obviously you can't tell yet until we play for real, [but with] my history in the league and my experience, this feels like it's a very prepared offense. I haven't been around a team that's worked harder or demanded as much of itself as this year's."
Wide receiver Laveranues Coles put it all into perspective, as he often does.
"When you have guys working as hard as the guys in this locker room," the eighth-year veteran said Monday, "you hope when everybody gets on the field together, the formula works and everything goes in the right direction."
But he added, "You don't actually know until you actually get on the field. Until you actually get in a ballgame and start getting in a groove and guys start getting it going, I can't tell you what direction we're headed in, one way or another."