Santonio Holmes, Kenrick Ellis questionable for Jets' opener vs. Tampa Bay
It is uncertain whether Santonio Holmes will play in the Jets' regular-season opener Sunday. (John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger)
Darryl Slater/The Star-Ledger By Darryl Slater/The Star-Ledger
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on September 06, 2013 at 2:30 PM, updated September 06, 2013 at 2:45 PM
The Jets are listing two starters, wide receiver Santonio Holmes and nose tackle Kenrick Ellis, as questionable for Sunday’s season opener against Tampa Bay, meaning they have a 50/50 chance of playing.
Holmes hasn’t played since suffering a serious left foot fracture Sept. 30 against San Francisco. The injury required two surgeries. Holmes has been practicing on a limited basis, mainly participating in the walk-through portion of practice. He had a scheduled day off Thursday and returned to limited participation Friday.
The Jets could use Holmes, their best receiver, as rookie quarterback Geno Smith debuts Sunday. Holmes has said the decision about him playing could be held off until game day.
“I’m hopeful he plays because he is a difference maker,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
Ellis has dealt with a back injury since training camp in Cortland, N.Y. Damon Harrison would start if Ellis can’t play, which would be another step in Harrison’s remarkable journey to the NFL.
Ryan said Friday that all of his other players are listed as probable for the opener, except two. As expected, quarterback Mark Sanchez (shoulder) and rush outside linebacker Quinton Coples (ankle) are out for this game.
The Jets had already ruled Sanchez out when they named Smith the starter on Wednesday. Sanchez entered the NFL in 2009, and this will mark just the third game that he has not started. He missed one game with a knee injury in 2009 and was benched for last year’s penultimate game.
After seeing Sanchez struggle for two seasons, the Jets drafted Smith in the second round in the spring. Sanchez almost certainly would have won the competition with Smith to start in Week 1, but Sanchez injured his right (throwing) shoulder when he was inserted in the fourth quarter of the third preseason game, against the Giants, behind an offensive line of backups.
Whoever their quarterback was going to be, the Jets seemed likely to lean on their defense this season, even though it does have seven new starters. One of the most important new starters was Coples, the No. 16 overall pick in 2012. He started two games as a rookie, and then was moved from defensive end to the rush linebacker spot for this season, as Ryan hoped to take advantage of his size and athleticism.
But in the Jets’ second preseason game, against Jacksonville, Coples hurt his right ankle (reportedly a hairline fracture) and had to undergo a “medical procedure,” as the Jets put it. He is out indefinitely and almost certainly will also miss the second game, on Thursday night at New England.
Even without Coples, Ryan said he believes the Jets will be able to do the same things with the rush linebacker spot. Garrett McIntyre and Antwan Barnes will combine to play the position, with McIntyre listed as the starter.
“Obviously, Coples is a rare talent,” Ryan said. “I think that would have been good (to have him), because we would have had those other guys for depth, but hopefully he’ll get out there soon.”
Some other notes from Ryan’s final press conference before the lid-lifter …
** Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin had a strong rookie season in 2012 after being drafted No. 31 overall. He ran 319 times for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. He caught 49 passes for 472 yards and a touchdown. Martin is 5-9 and 223 pounds, and is a physical runner.
“You have to have more than one guy on him,” Ryan said. “He’s a guy that runs hard, runs through arm tackles, so we’ve got to make sure that we have a lot of guys flying to football, getting off the blocks and don’t assume one guy has him on the ground. We’ve got to set our edges and we’ve got to have a lot of guys on him. I’ve seen him run through some pretty good tacklers in this league.”
Ryan is wary of Martin’s 9.6 yards per catch last season, which is notable to Ryan because Martin didn’t play much on third down.
“They’re going to use him more (as a pass catcher), is my understanding,” Ryan said. “That’s something you have to be very mindful of and very aware of.”
** Ryan wouldn’t say if he plans to dress No. 3 quarterback Brady Quinn, who is owed a $715,000 guaranteed salary if he is on the roster Saturday. Ryan does not usually dress three quarterbacks, since teams generally don’t need three in a game.
The Jets could always cut Quinn and re-sign him next week, to avoid having to pay him the guaranteed money. They signed Quinn this week to have another healthy quarterback option with Sanchez out. They now have four quarterbacks, and teams just don’t keep that many quarterbacks.
Ryan is going with Matt Simms as his backup Sunday, since Simms has been in the system longer than Quinn and won the No. 3 job over Greg McElroy in the preseason. Simms, who entered the league as an undrafted player in 2012, has never appeared in a regular season NFL game and wasn’t even on a team last regular season.
“Judging by his performance in the preseason, I feel pretty good about him,” Ryan said. “When he was here initially, he was probably a camp arm. That was it. We said we were going to give him an opportunity to compete for that third job, and quite honestly, he won it. Would he have been the favorite heading into it? I’m not so sure you could say that. But he earned his spot on this roster, and he’s got a little something to him.”
** Ryan said on ESPN Radio on Friday morning that the Jets are “going to be a heck of a lot better than people think.”
He was asked during his press conference: Just how much better?
“I think we’re going to get ready to find out,” he said. “Within the next six, seven days, I think we’ll know a lot about this football team.”
With the New England trip coming just four days after Smith’s debut against Tampa on Sunday, everybody certainly will have a better idea about where the Jets stand at this time next week.