Jets confident, comfortable with Clemens at QB

Braylon Edwards’ first encounter with Kellen Clemens didn’t end

so well for him.

It was six years ago, and the New York Jets wide receiver was a

junior at Michigan, which was ranked No. 3 in the country. That is,

before Clemens ran for a touchdown and helped lead 22nd-ranked

Oregon to a 31-27 upset victory in front of thousands of

yellow-clad Ducks fans.

“Yeah, I remember playing against him,” Edwards recalled

Friday, “and he beat us that day.”

The two are now teammates, working together to try to beat the

Tampa Bay Buccaneers and keep the Jets (6-6) in the AFC playoff


“We feel good right now, we really do,” Clemens said. “We’ve

had a chance to not only throw on the field to one another, but to

visit about a lot of things.”

Clemens is making his first NFL start in nearly two years

Sunday, filling in for the injured Mark Sanchez. Coach Rex Ryan

decided earlier in the week to sit Sanchez while he recovers from a

sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

“He has a lot of experience with all of these guys for the most

part, with the exception of me, and he’s done a good job,” Edwards

said of Clemens. “He’s a seasoned veteran and he’s a leader and we

think we can accomplish some things this Sunday.”

A major part of that will be the chemistry the two were able to

develop during a full week of practice. Edwards was acquired from

Cleveland earlier this season, long after Sanchez won the starting

quarterback job, so he hadn’t caught any passes from Clemens until


“We’ve spent time watching film both after practice and before

and we’ve made a lot of progress,” Clemens said. “It’s not going

to look like we’ve been playing together for years, but we’ve

definitely made a lot of progress and are on the same page in a lot

of areas.”

Edwards compares Clemens’ arm strength and humble approach to

that of Derek Anderson, one of the quarterbacks he played with the

last few seasons in Cleveland. Edwards also pretended he was

catching passes from Anderson again to get in better sync with


“Over the course of my years, I’ve played with a lot of

different quarterbacks,” Edwards said. “I’ve been able to adapt

and not get used to one guy, so it definitely helps when things get

switched like this.”

Clemens was shaky in his limited action last Thursday when he

came in against Buffalo, going 1 for 2 for 14 yards and nearly

losing a fumble near the goal line. The Jets are confident that

working with the first-team offense will get Clemens comfortable

again – even if it’s for just one start.

“He’s got a great grasp of our system,” Ryan said. “He knows

the system as well as anybody, and it shows. He has great poise and

ownership right now. The guys believe in him, just like they

believe in Mark.”

Clemens has worked under offensive coordinator Brian

Schottenheimer since being a second-round pick in 2006.

“I think most backup quarterbacks probably don’t have the

system down as much as Kellen does,” Ryan said. “Kellen knows it

inside and out. We’re very confident in how he’s going to play this


The game plan is expected to feature lots of handoffs to Thomas

Jones, with the Jets ranked No. 1 overall in rushing offense. That

could take pressure off Clemens, who was mediocre in his last stint

as a starter in 2007. Clemens threw five touchdown passes in eight

games, but also had 10 interceptions while showing spotty pocket


“He was playing a lot and getting hit a lot, quite honestly,”

Schottenheimer said. “It’s something he’s worked really hard


Clemens was sacked 27 times two years ago behind a makeshift

offensive line that included players such as Anthony Clement and

Adrien Clarke, who were since replaced by Damien Woody and Alan

Faneca, respectively.

“There are a lot of reasons that we feel he will perform

better,” Schottenheimer said. “The cast around him is very

strong. I think he realizes he doesn’t have to do it by himself. I

also think he is more prepared for this opportunity than he was in


Tight end Dustin Keller believes the fact they got so much work

in with Clemens in the offseason will help.

“We had the whole entire summer and OTAs before Mark got here,

so we have a good feel for Kellen,” Keller said. “Obviously, 12

weeks into a season, you’re going to lose some of that chemistry,

but I think we’ve regained a lot of it this past week.”

Either way, the Jets know they’ve got to keep winning regardless

of who’s under center.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us because our quarterback’s

hurt,” Woody said. “The train’s got to keep moving. When somebody

goes down, the next man’s got to step up. In this case, Kellen’s

going to step up. The team’s got complete faith in him.”