Jets' Clemens grabs hold of backup job with stellar performance vs. Falcons Print
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Saturday, 11 August 2007 10:17
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 NEW YORK (AP) -Kellen Clemens stepped to the podium and asked if he was standing in the right spot.
The New York Jets' backup quarterback isn't used to postgame news conferences, but his performance against the Atlanta Falcons had everybody talking.
``When you know the offense, you can play fast and that's what we like to do,'' tight end Sean Ryan said. ``You can see he has confidence and he's getting the ball out there.''
Clemens, in his second season with the Jets, staked a major claim to the backup job to Chad Pennington with the best game of his young NFL career. He went 16-of-22 for 174 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Ryan in a 31-16 victory Friday night.
``This is the best feeling that I have had personally since I've been here,'' said Clemens, who completed nine straight passes during one stretch.
While Pennington didn't attempt a pass in his two series as the Jets worked on their running game, coach Eric Mangini let Clemens throw often after he took over the offense late in the opening quarter.
``We wanted to get him a significant amount of work, in terms of reps and with combinations of people,'' Mangini said. ``With the situation of the game, it was something I wanted to continue with a little bit later into the game.''
Clemens led five scoring drives and had all but one of the Jets' passing attempts - Brad Smith had one incompletion.
Rookie receiver Chansi Stuckey caught one of Clemens' touchdown passes and was thoroughly impressed.
``Kellen is doing a great job throwing the ball, making reads and I just really want to commend him on doing a great job,'' he said.
While most of his work was against the Falcons' second- and third-team defenses, Clemens was still impressive. He joined Rick Mirer (1999) and Ray Lucas (2000) as the only Jets players to throw for three touchdowns in a preseason game since 1992.
``The more reps I get, the more I progress,'' he said. ``It's the same for any young quarterback. I'm getting a lot of reps now in practice, and hopefully making the most out of them.''
As a rookie last year, Clemens got into just two games for the Jets and threw an incomplete pass, rushed twice for 10 yards and was sacked four times. For a second-round pick, it was hardly a sparkling NFL debut.
There was also growing sentiment that Clemens was struggling to pick up the system and wasn't developing the way the Jets had hoped. Not so, said Mangini.
``Kellen did some good things for us last year,'' the coach said. ``It just wasn't apparent because he wasn't getting into games, but he has been consistently working at this. We have a long way to go here in preseason, so he will get more opportunities to be in game situations and we hope he can continue to grow.''
When the Jets drafted Clemens out of Oregon last year with the 49th pick, they didn't know if Pennington would be the same following two rotator cuff operations. So, the team signed veteran Patrick Ramsey, kept holdover Brooks Bollinger and selected Clemens, with the idea he could be the quarterback of the near future.
Instead, Pennington bounced back with a terrific season and Clemens spent most of the year on the sideline with a clipboard in his hands, charting plays and soaking in the system. Pennington was in a similar situation during his first two NFL seasons, learning under Vinny Testaverde.
``I think he understands what it's going to take to be a good quarterback in this league,'' Pennington said. ``I know how he feels right now. It's a tough job being a backup quarterback because you never know when your opportunity is going to present itself. But when the opportunity does, you have to be ready. So it's a tough situation to be in, but he's handling it really well.''
While Smith remains a work-in-progress, Clemens and Marques Tuiasosopo appear to be the front-runners for the backup spot. Both played well in the team's intrasquad scrimmage at Fordham last Sunday, but Clemens' extended time Friday night sent a clear message as to who's ahead on the depth chart.
``Things,'' Clemens said, ``are going in a good direction.''

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