Eagles' McNabb, Jets' Pennington both feeling the heat early in the season Print
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Thursday, 11 October 2007 12:26
NFL Headline News

 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Donovan McNabb knows exactly how Chad Pennington feels.
It's been a rough start for both quarterbacks, who have some fans and media calling for them to be benched in favor of younger players.
``I talked to Chad in the preseason and it must be this whole radius with Eli (Manning), Chad and I,'' McNabb said, referring to the three sometimes-embattled quarterbacks in New York and Philadelphia. ``Everybody seems to have a great time talking about us and getting us out of here. You have to take it with a grain of salt.''
McNabb's play has certainly been a spicy topic for the Eagles (1-3), who take on the Jets (1-4) at the Meadowlands on Sunday.
McNabb returned just 9 1/2 months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last season and looked tentative in losses to Green Bay and Washington. His statistics were mediocre and the scrambling ability that made him so dangerous was nowhere to be found. Some wanted touted rookie Kevin Kolb or backup A.J. Feeley to replace him, but McNabb bounced back in Week 3 with a terrific performance in a 56-21 win over Detroit.
Then, it all fell apart again two weeks ago at Giants Stadium, when he was sacked 12 times.
``People love you when you're winning and when things aren't going well, the first person they point at is the quarterback,'' McNabb said. ``It may not all be the quarterback, but it's just something that comes with the position and that doesn't bother me at all.''
Pennington has also brushed off criticism of his arm strength and lapse in sound decision-making. Many fans want to see what strong-armed second-year quarterback Kellen Clemens can do, and Pennington's game-sealing interceptions the past two weeks are fueling the fire.
``Obviously when you're losing and you have the picks, it's magnified, whereas winning sometimes covers that up and you're able to deal with it a little bit easier because you did get the win,'' Pennington said. ``You don't scrape it under the rug, but it is overlooked a little bit.''
Pennington has completed 79.1 percent of his passes, second in the league to New England's Tom Brady, but has been intercepted five times in the last two games.
``The confidence level in Chad hasn't changed one bit,'' wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. ``I know for myself and for everyone else on this team, we feel the same way.''
Among the biggest criticisms of coach Eric Mangini and the Jets has been their inability to establish a running game, despite the addition of Thomas Jones. New York is 29th in the league in total offense and in rushing as Jones has only 290 yards on 88 carries.
``We're trying to develop a chemistry and a nucleus as far as the running game is concerned,'' Jones said. ``We're working hard every week to get to where we need to be.''
Many of the Eagles' problems are related to injuries to star players such as running back Brian Westbrook, tight end L.J. Smith, safety Brian Dawkins and cornerback Lito Sheppard. The bye week was a welcomed break.
``It was important for all of us,'' McNabb said. ``In the beginning, we were upset when we found out when our bye week was, but it came at the right time for us.''
The Eagles are 3-6 under coach Andy Reid entering byes, but 8-0 in the weeks following them. Is there a secret to that success?
``If I knew, I would fix the other one and continue on with this one,'' said Reid, who shot down rumors earlier in the week that his job was in jeopardy.
Philadelphia is hoping to become more consistent on offense after putting up 536 total yards three weeks ago against Detroit and then just 190 against the Giants.
``We haven't had any flow,'' said Westbrook, who expects to play Sunday after missing the game against the Giants with an abdominal strain. ``We've been very, I would say, random in the things that we're doing. We need to get back to when we had some precision passing, quick routes, and some big runs down the field as well.''
A lot of that will come from whether tackle William Thomas (MCL sprain) and guard Todd Herremans (knee) return from injuries. Reid expects both to play, and the Eagles hope they will. Thomas' replacement, Winston Justice, was beaten by the Giants' Osi Umenyiora for six sacks.
``It wasn't all just Winston Justice,'' McNabb said. ``It was the 10 other guys as well. For all of us, we didn't play well.''
Having Westbrook back could make all the difference for the Eagles against a Jets defense that ranks 28th.
``He's a guy when the ball gets in his hands, he has a lot of big-play potential,'' New York linebacker Victor Hobson said. ``He has great vision and is real elusive, which creates a lot of problems.''
Westbrook leads the NFL with 174 yards from scrimmage per game, and is the only running back to have a 100-yard receiving game.
``Our goal is to go out and start fast and put some points on the board early on in the game,'' Westbrook said. ``Score when we get in the red zone, touchdowns instead of field goals, and move forward that way.''
 

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