Despite the team’s 1-8 record, there may yet be some good to come out of this season for the Jets.
In yesterday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Redskins, second-year quarterback Kellen Clemens showed Jets fans what they’ve been missing during their lost season.
Displaying poise in the pocket, confidence and solid decision-making skills, the former Oregon Duck proved that he’s s the future for the Jets and not another in a line of mistakes made by New York’s front office in the NFL Draft.
Statistically, Clemens’s numbers through the air aren’t overpowering. He completed 54.8% of his passes for 226 yards.
But who expected Clemens to rush for 48 yards, one less than running back Thomas Jones?
As was the case when Chad Pennington was the starter, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer kept the plays quick and short, keeping Clemens throwing high-percentage passes off shotguns and three-step drops to an array of different receivers (seven, to be exact). When Clemens did attempt long passes, he constantly overthrew his receivers, something that will take a few games to fix as he refines his rhythm and chemistry with New York’s wideouts.
But what Clemens brought to the field was youthful exuberance and self-assuredness. At the end of an 18-yard run in the second quarter, he got the crowd and his teammates into the game, motioning for the fans to get loud after the referee tacked 15 yards on for a late hit by Redskins linebacker London Fletcher.
Against a tough, speedy Redskins defense, Clemens kept his composure. Even though he was sacked three times, Clemens made sure to keep the ball safe instead of hurrying a throw or getting stripped for a fumble. When the Redskins showed blitz, Clemens got rid of the ball quickly and with authority. Many of his passes were delivered on the move, as he avoided the rush that Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams threw at him all day.
Clemens performed as well as he did despite uneven support from his teammates.
On the first offensive play from scrimmage in the second half, Clemens had a wide-open Leon Washington down the right sideline. Washington, who opened the game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, dropped an easy pass that might have gone for a long play or even a touchdown. Later in the game, when it looked like New York was on its way to scoring for the first time, Jerricho Cotchery fumbled a pass inside the red zone that stopped a nearly seven-minute drive.
More dispiriting was the fact that Clemens and the offense spent so much of the game watching from the sidelines as the Jets’ disappointing rush defense continued to struggle, allowing Washington to keep possession for long stretches and gain a whopping 296 yards on the ground.
There’s certainly not much for Jets fans to cheer about at the moment. But Clemens has at least provided a reason to be hopeful about the future.