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Chad returns as No. 1

Pennington effective in first two series and shows shoulder can take hit


Newsday Staff Correspondent

August 12, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. -- Chad Pennington was in midseason form, at least by last year's standards.

He stood on the sideline for most of the game, helmet off, rooting for the Jets instead of quarterbacking them. A familiar pose. It's a position he occupied for most of the 2005 season after a second rotator cuff injury required a second surgery.

But unlike the forced inactivity of last year, Pennington earned this rest. He erased nearly every doubt that he would be this team's starting quarterback by the simple fact that he was the starting quarterback.

Jets coach Eric Mangini had tried to keep that matter secret during training camp. But in Friday night's preseason opener against the Buccaneers -- a 16-3 loss for the Jets at Raymond James Stadium -- Pennington's status was obvious.

Pennington played a pair of series, spurring the Jets' offense with short, efficient passes, but was unable to get the ball in the end zone or put any points on the scoreboard. He also proved he can take a hit on his twice-repaired right shoulder, perhaps too much for Mangini's liking. His second drive ended when Kalvin Pearson sliced through the offensive line and whacked that throwing arm, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Barrett Ruud after the Jets advanced to the Bucs' 5.

Pennington was 9-for-14 for 54 yards, his longest pass an 11-yard toss to Laveranues Coles on third-and-8. He completed his first five passes, none of them beyond 8 yards, then threw three straight incompletions as the 12-play opening drive ended with a punt.

Pennington took his first hit from an opposing player since Week 4 of last season when a seemingly busted play had him rolling unprotected to his right. Pennington tucked the ball and ran for a gain of 5, diving for extra yardage.

On the second drive, he withstood a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ellis Wyms after tossing a short pass to running back Derrick Blaylock. He was hit by Dewayne White later in the series, forcing a fumble, but Pennington picked up the ball and threw it away.

Once Pennington's night ended, it was time for the rotation. Rookie Kellen Clemens batted second in the Mangini quarterback order. The second-round draft pick performed admirably in his second series, guiding the Jets to their only first-half points with an 11-play drive that ended with a 20-yard field goal to tie it at 3.

The Jets received the ball for the scoring drive at the Tampa Bay 48 with 1:50 left. Clemens fired a strong pass to Jerricho Cotchery for a gain of 19, then hit Tim Dwight for a gain of 7 on third-and-4 to set up first-and-goal at the 4.

Clemens threw a fade to Cotchery in the end zone that was broken up by Alan Zemaitis, then ran for a gain of 2 when no receivers were open on second down. The impressive part of that play was his ability to jump up and use the Jets' final timeout of the half to stop the clock with six seconds left. That left time for a quick try for six, which ended up with an intentional incompletion, and Mike Nugent's kick through the uprights.

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