Brooks Bollinger, the Jets' sixth-round pick in 2003, probably is not the next Tom Brady. And third-stringer, former Canadian Football League champion, Ricky Ray probably is not the next Warren Moon. But for all of the people clamoring about the Jets failure to bring in a veteran backup, it is time to relax. Take a deep breath. Remember what happened last year when Chad Pennington went down and the Jets started 0-4, their offense stagnant under veteran backup Vinny Testaverde.
That does not make Bollinger any better, but it is too early to write him off. As head coach Herman Edwards has commented on several occasions, the calls of "bust" surrounding Bollinger sound an awful lot like the words flung toward an unproven Pennington before his breakout season in 2002. And what about former grocery store clerk Kurt Warner, who had completed a total of four NFL passes before leading the Rams to their first title after taking over for the injured Trent Green in 1999? And don't forget his replacement, Marc Bulger. Bulger never took the Rams to the Super Bowl, but with Warner out for seven games in 2002, he stepped in and completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,826 yards and 14 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. And now he's the Rams' starter.
The fact is, Bollinger has not looked good through most of camp, and Ray has seen little action. The first few weeks of practice, Bollinger made poor reads on the defense and did not show great accuracy. But after an embarrassing day against the Giants in Albany on August 7, he started to come on in the week leading up to the preseason opener in New Orleans. He began establishing a rapport with his receivers and stopped scrambling at the first sign of a collapsing pocket.
He has been fairly criticized for his atrocious start against the Saints when he fumbled away his first two possessions. But with the spotlight on those errors, at least give a side note to how well he bounced back.
For a guy who has been under the microscope for his struggles this summer, Bollinger did not panic when everything started to fall apart on Friday. After a seven-play drive that included six runs, Bollinger took advantage of his next opportunity, leading the Jets on a 10-play, 62-yard march to a field goal. He then conducted the team's only touchdown drive, playing the final seven snaps with a sprained knee.
The knee will keep Bollinger out of this week's game at Indianapolis, pushing Ray into the number-two slot and causing the uninspiring names of Chris Redman, Akili Smith and Jamie Martin to be bantered about. There are reasons those guys are available.
The Jets have their eyes on the waiver wire, and if they see an upgrade, they say they might take it. But attractive options are not likely to pop up until teams make their final cuts in September.
For now, the Jets say they are standing pat. Ray will back up Pennington this week, and the team hopes Bollinger will be back for the third preseason game against the Giants. If they do not like what they see, the Jets will have to take another route. But until then, it is worth it to take a chance on someone they think could be Tom Brady, rather than someone they know is Akili Smith.
Cornerback Ray Mickens (left knee) will miss the week of practice and the game against Indianapolis after an MRI showed "a little bit of a strain," Edwards said. Derrick Strait and Omare Lowe will get most of the reps in Mickens' place as the third cornerback in the nickel package . . .
The Jets signed cornerback Andrew Davison who played in six games for the Jets in 2002 and was in Dallas last season . . .
Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery really has come on after a quiet start to camp. He connected with Ray, Monday, for a touchdown over Davison and had a diving grab past linebacker Jonathan Vilma on a pass from Pennington. "All I see every time I turn around is that 89 catches the ball," Edwards said . . .
Ray was impressive in the afternoon, putting the perfect touch on back-to-back deep balls to fullback Jerald Sowell and Cotchery. He also threaded the needle on a short pass to receiver Justin McCareins . . .
When Donnie Henderson signed on as defensive coordinator with his aggressive, new style, the Jets indicated that they might play man-to-man coverage on opposing receivers. It has become more apparent each day that the Jets do not have the pure-speed personnel in the secondary needed to play man, and Monday, Edwards casually referred to his defense as "a zone team." . . .
Wide receiver Santana Moss looked sharp in the morning practice, his first in more than a week after injuring his hamstring. He sat out the afternoon session with fellow receiver Jonathan Carter who had a wrap on his left knee. Every time Carter sits, the team says it is just part of the regular receiver rotation, but Carter seems to be a bigger part of that rotation than anyone else . . .
Defensive end Shaun Ellis was at the center of a heated verbal exchange with a couple of offensive linemen in the afternoon session. Soon after, as most of the first-team defense headed toward the sideline, Ellis had to be restrained by fellow end John Abraham. A few minutes later, Edwards brought Ellis and center Kevin Mawae together for a short chat . . .
Safety Reggie Tongue (calf) is questionable for Saturday's game at Indianapolis . . .
Wide receiver Matt Dominguez attended practice in full pads after hurting his shoulder Sunday, but he did not see action.