Aaron Gleeman

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Free Kellen Clemens!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Having watched the Jets quite a bit lately it's long been clear that they'd be better off replacing Chad Pennington with Kellen Clemens and earlier this week it looked like coach Eric Mangini was ready to make the switch. Instead, he announced Wednesday that Pennington will keep his job with his usual "Chad is our starting quarterback" mantra. However, this time Mangini refused to address whether or not it was a long-term decision, saying: "I'm only focused on this week."

Pennington put up good numbers Sunday against the Bengals, but it's important to note that everyone puts up good numbers against the Bengals. He also threw a crucial interception late as the Jets fell to 1-6 and struggled mightily versus actual NFL-caliber defenses in the previous two games, averaging just 6.2 yards per attempt while being picked off four times against the Giants and Eagles.

Clemens is clearly the Jets' long-term starter and Pennington's arm strength isn't getting any less floaterific with age, so it seems likely that he'll be on a short leash Sunday against the Bills. Pennington actually produced some nice numbers against the Bills back in Week 4, completing 32-of-39 passes for 290 yards and one touchdown, but didn't look especially sharp and had a wobbly throw picked off late with the Jets down a field goal.

While the Free Kellen Clemens! movement hopefully picks up steam, here are some other notes from around football …

* Steven Jackson practiced fully Wednesday for the first time since partially tearing his groin in Week 3, ditching the red no-contact jersey that he wore last week. Barring a setback Jackson is expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday against the Browns, with fill-in Brian Leonard returning to fullback after averaging 3.9 yards per carry in his place. Aware of the questions his fantasy owners have regarding his status, Jackson advised them to "start me this Sunday."

For now consider Jackson a solid RB2 option, but that will obviously change if he puts together a strong game against the Browns' weak rush defense while remaining healthy. "It's fun to go out there and practice full-go and not be limited like the last couple of weeks," Jackson said. "Everything's going well. A groin is something that, it feels good and the next day it may have a little tweak here or there, so we're waiting on Thursday to see how it reacts."

* David Garrard has been diagnosed with the dreaded high-ankle sprain, with coach Jack Del Rio saying Wednesday that he's expected to miss 3-4 weeks. As Del Rio also pointed out, high-ankle sprains tend to linger longer than initially expected, so there's a chance that Garrard will be sidelined for over a month. He's safe to drop in most re-draft leagues at this point, but new Jaguars starter Quinn Gray isn't worth picking up as his replacement unless you're desperate.

Gray was awful in relief Monday night against the Colts, has three straight road matchups coming up against Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Tennessee, and doesn't figure to do a whole lot of throwing if Jacksonville can establish any sort of consistent running game against what will surely be plenty of eight-man fronts. The Bucs' defense is no longer elite, but they still force a lot of turnovers and are an excellent fantasy option in Week 8.

The good news for the Jaguars is that it doesn't sound like Maurice Jones-Drew's knee injury will sideline him this week. MJD missed practice Wednesday after leaving Monday night's game in the fourth quarter with what is being called a sprain, but made it clear to reporters afterward that he expects to play Sunday. "I'm good, there's nothing wrong," Jones-Drew said. "It's like you fall and you get cut. It'll heal. It's nothing. I don't understand the big deal."

* Rudi Johnson sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday, and looks likely to play a limited role at best in Week 8 against the Steelers. Johnson has essentially been sidelined for a month now with a hamstring injury and gained nine yards on 17 carries the last time he saw major action in a game way back on September 23. His absence has allowed backup Kenny Watson to emerge as an impact player, with Watson totaling 157 yards and three touchdowns on 34 touches Sunday.

That brought Watson's per-carry average up to 4.7 on the year, which doesn't seem like a fluke given that he's now gained an average of 4.9 yards on 233 career rushes spread over five seasons. Watson's receiving skills already gave him an edge over Johnson on third downs, so proving that he can be an effective every-down runner puts Johnson's starting job in serious short- and long-term jeopardy. Pittsburgh's scary defense makes neither a good Week 8 play.

Two-Minute Drill: LaMont Jordan, Brandon Jacobs, and Laurence Maroney have each been removed from their respective teams' injury reports, but only Jacobs has an especially strong matchup in Week 8 … Tatum Bell has fallen to No. 3 on the Lions' running-back depth chart and special-teams contributor Aveion Cason is expected to active over him … The Tampa Tribune speculates that the recently acquired Michael Bennett could take over the Bucs' lead runner once he gets a firm grasp of the offense, but that seems unlikely following Earnest Graham's 32-touch, 191-yard effort Sunday … Pro Football Talk reports that the Raiders are considering releasing Dominic Rhodes despite his getting 10 touches as Jordan's backup Sunday, which would hand the No. 2 job to Justin FargasNate Burleson's frequent mental lapses have reportedly frustrated the Seahawks' coaching staff, which is bad news for Burleson's role now that D.J. Hackett is healthy … Chris Henry dislocated a finger in his return to practice Wednesday and still has another two weeks remaining on his eight-game suspension.

Red Zone: Ronnie Brown's (knee) season officially ended when he was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, clearing the way for Jesse Chatman to have a fantasy impact … According to coach Jeff Fisher, Vince Young "took every snap he ordinarily takes during a Wednesday practice session" and "was fine" … Despite not practicing Wednesday, Frank Gore (ankle) is expected to start in Week 8 … Alex Smith (shoulder) practiced fully Wednesday and looks likely to return this week against the Saints after sitting out a month … Chester Taylor (groin) was limited in practice Wednesday, which could give Adrian Peterson a value boost … Coach John Fox said Wednesday that David Carr (back) will start over Vinny Testaverde in Week 8 if he's healthy enough to play … Josh McCown (foot) returned to practice Wednesday, but Daunte Culpepper continued to take first-team reps … Rod Smith practiced Wednesday for the first time since having hip surgery 10 months ago … Tony Scheffler (leg) practiced Wednesday and is nice bye-week filler … With Tarvaris Jackson (finger) sitting out most of practice Wednesday, Kelly Holcomb looks likely to be the Vikings quarterback who struggles against the Eagles in Week 8.


Aaron Gleeman is Rotoworld's senior baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. Also find him at AaronGleeman.com and on Twitter.
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