Jets Need Bollinger To Come Through At Baltimore
In the wake of a disastrous 26-20 OT loss at home to Jacksonville last week which resulted in Chad Pennington out for the season with a torn rotator cuff and Jay Fiedler (shoulder) also out indefinitely, the Jets (1-2) turn to third stringer Brooks Bollinger Sunday at Baltimore (0-2).
It's a tough spot for the third-year quarterback to make his first career start because the Ravens are one of the toughest defenses in the NFL and will do all they can to win their first game of the season. They're also coming off two losses in which they allowed 49 points, only recording one sack, one fumble recovery and no interceptions. Led by All-Pro Ray Lewis (19 tackles), they should be rearing to go at home off a bye week.
Bollinger has attempted just nine passes in his NFL career, which should change.
While Bollinger attempts to lead the Jets through the air, All-Pro Curtis Martin should have his hands full against the Ravens D. The 32-year-old Martin has run for just 196 yards, a paltry 2.8 average. It's his third worst start in an 11-year career. Unfortunately for Martin, Lewis knows what to expect.
"If I'm the head coach and my starting quarterback leaves for the season, and I have the leading rusher in the NFL last year, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know my game plan," Lewis said.
The Jets offensive line must do a decent job blocking or it could be a long day.
"It was hard enough already, and my guess is that it's going to get a lot harder to run the ball in the immediate future," guard Pete Kendall said.
One Raven the Jets should beware of is Terrell Suggs. He has no sacks this year but over the last two seasons, he had 22.5 sacks. Suggs knows what his D must get back to.
"Whenever we go in there and are playing Ravens-style defense, then teams are in trouble," Suggs said. "We really haven't gotten into that because the quarterbacks have been able to get the ball out. It takes away our aggressiveness."
Bollinger will try to form quick chemistry with leading receiver Laveranues Coles (15 catches-for-151 yards, TD) and also try to connect with Justin McCareins (nine receptions). Tight end Chris Baker (11 catches-for-172 yards, TD) and vet Wayne Chrebet (seven receptions) are two other options.
Most likely with his inexperience, Jets offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger will call a low risk game to ease Bollinger into the system.
If he struggles, the Jets brought back Vinny Testaverde as backup. The 41-year-old Brooklyn native once led Gang Green to the AFC title game in 1998 before falling to eventual Super Bowl champion Denver. After losing his starting job to Pennington three years ago, Testaverde started for Dallas last year, throwing for 3,532 yards along with 17 TDs and 20 interceptions.
At the moment though, he will help support Bollinger from the sideline. Something that doesn't phase the former Miami Hurricane.
"I'm excited, happy, nervous, anxious, all those feelings about playing for the Jets again," said Testaverde. "I hope things work out for the best."
"Right now, Vinny is not starting, he is not running out of the tunnel in Baltimore being the starter," said coach Herman Edwards. "He is going to be standing next to me. Brooks is starting. From there, we will see."
Edwards wants his quarterback to just go out there and be himself.
"You tell them to go have fun ... be who you are. You're good enough at who you are to play in this league. You don't have to be anything different," Edwards said.
Meanwhile, the Jets defense has done all they could so far to stay in games. Though they've allowed 60 points, it's a bit misleading. In Week One, they lost 27-7 to the Chiefs. Since, they have tightened up allowing an average of 16.5 points the past two games.
Led by 2004 Defensive Rookie of the Year linebacker Jonathan Vilma (32 tackles), the Jets look to contain Ravens back Jamal Lewis Sunday. The All-Pro is off to a slow start with 26 attempts for just 57 yards (2.2 avg) and no TDs.
With starting QB Kyle Boller out for at least two more weeks with a hyperextended right toe, Gang Green will turn up the heat on backup Anthony Wright. Since replacing Boller in Week One, Wright has struggled, tossing three picks including two that were run back for scores. Leading rusher John Abraham (three sacks) along with Shaun Ellis (sack) and Bryan Thomas (sack) could make life miserable for Wright Sunday.
Baltimore does possess two primary targets in Derrick Mason (16 catches-for-159 yards, TD) and tight end Todd Heap (nine receptions). The Jets secondary led by Erik Coleman (16 tackles), David Barrett (14 tackles, interception) and Ty Law (11 tackles, Int) must keep them in check.
Look for both offenses to have problems moving the ball in a tightly contested low scoring game which might hinge on a field goal.