Monday, September 17, 2007

When Life Hands You Clemens

I'd be remiss not to mention the performance of Jets QB Kellen Clemens. Clemens' fourth quarter performance against Baltimore was very encouraging for several reasons:

1. He got the crap kicked out of him for much of the game and kept on coming back for more. As much as I hate to talk in intangibles, it was a real gut check. The Jets line was porous during the first two and a half quarters of the game and were befuddled trying to protect against the Ravens varying blitz packages. It seemed like Clemens was hit nearly every time he dropped back to pass, but even though he was blindsided a few times, he never coughed up the ball. Had Chad played he would have been carted off the field by the end of the first series. That's not a knock on Chad, but rather the reality of his durability at this point. Yes Clemens held onto the ball too long at times, but by the fourth quarter he really seemed to have his internal clock set.

2. He picked the Baltimore defense apart in clear passing situations. Again I don't mean this to be a Chad bash. I'm a Chad fan and statistically speaking he is the best starting qb in franchise history (winning %, passing rating, td/int ratio, completion %, etc.). At this point in his career, after two shoulder injuries, however he simply cannot make certain throws. He can't throw the deep out and has a lot of trouble shooting the ball through small windows downfield. As a result his effectiveness is severely limited in long yardage downs and late game must-pass situations. Clemens excelled in these situations against a very good secondary. Clemens picked apart Ravens D in long, short, and intermediate routes. Because he can make all of the throws, the D had to play him straight up. In similar situations, Chad's limitations force the Jets to call underneath route after underneath route. Of course, arm strength isn't everything, but Clemens showed good touch and accuracy in addition to his more than adequate arm strength.

Is Clemens the next Tom Brady, probably not? Is he the future of the franchise? It's too early to tell. But his growth and progression from the beginning to the end of yesterday's game against one of the toughest, most aggressive defenses was extremely encouraging. If Justin McCareins doesn't drop two sure touchdown passes, we might have a real quarterback controversy in NY this week.

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