Jets QB Clemens shows toughness
November 5, 2007
The moment Kellen Clemens became a starting NFL quarterback didn't occur with a pass or a run, but with a kiss. It was planted on his forehead by blitzing Redskins safety LaRon Landry, who gave Clemens a fresh "Riddell" tattoo with a vicious helmet-to-helmet smack.
"He left a pretty good mark," Clemens said. "A yellow streak."
The yellow streak ran along Clemens' helmet, we should stress, not down his back.
He immediately jumped to his feet, brushed himself off and kept playing. Right away, it was evident that Clemens is tough enough. That element will serve a young player well in a season that, for the Jets, is getting uglier by the Sunday.
Clemens must muster the strength to not only absorb the hits but to deal with the disappointment of trying to help a team that's in no shape to help him.
After being handed the job, Clemens wasn't given much else yesterday. He didn't have Laveranues Coles, the Jets' best receiver, who's still recovering from a concussion, and it showed late in the game with a handful of dropped passes. He isn't operating behind a solid offensive line and therefore spent much of the afternoon on the run from the blitz. He also didn't have much of Thomas Jones because the Jets called Jones' number only 13 times, leaving Clemens without a reliable running game to lean on.
And he didn't have much help from the defense, either, because Clinton Portis and the rest of the Redskins ran for 296 yards and did a good job of keeping the ball out of Clemens' hands.
All told, it was another dismal day for the Jets, who once again couldn't hold a halftime lead and once again had no answers down the stretch.
The Redskins, hardly a team to be feared, were all but beaten until the Jets caved and lost, 23-20, in overtime, which officially makes their season a 1-8 disaster.
They now go into the bye-bye week as a team without interest or intrigue, except for Clemens. He has an extra week to prepare, to study, to comprehend and to realize what he's up against.
In essence, the Jets already are looking ahead to next season, because now is the right time for Clemens to make his mistakes and learn the position. That's what the final seven games are all about: getting Clemens ready for Week 1, 2008.
That's not to say he wasn't ready for Week 9, 2007. He threw the ball well, didn't show any serious flaws and had his team up by 14 points in the second quarter.
Clemens didn't show us the one big advantage he has over Chad Pennington - his longest pass picked up 39 yards - but then again, the Jets stuck to the Pennington playbook and kept calling for short routes.
The big play-calling mistake was ignoring Jones. He had only six carries in the second half and OT, and it's not as if the Jets were forced to keep throwing.
The Redskins gave Portis 36 chances to find a weakness in the Jets' defense, but Jones became an afterthought for the Jets, which is odd, because a new quarterback needs a safety net that a running game provides.
"That's up to the coaches," Jones said. "They coach; I play."
Why did the Jets bother trading for Jones in the offseason? The sensible thing is to give him the ball early, allow him to find a comfort zone and use him to set up the pass. With an extra week of practice, maybe they'll finally figure that out.
Even without Jones, Clemens stayed cool in the fourth quarter and in OT when it was clear the Jets had blown their chance and were just trying to salvage the afternoon. If not for the dropped passes, Clemens might have led the Jets to a fourth-quarter touchdown instead of the field goal that tied the score with 10 seconds left in regulation. He demonstrated a knack for running the two-minute offense and his composure never wavered.
"We didn't have any doubt that he'd do as well as he did," receiver Justin McCareins said.
Then there were the late hits he took, first by Landry, later by London Fletcher.
"They tried to knock me down and knock me out," Clemens said.
As we see, the new guy is neither down or out.
As for the Jets ...
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