A heaping helping of Tuesday Whispers

How weak has the Jets offense been the last two games?

Two weeks ago, they could manage only 10 points against a Cleveland Browns team that allowed 58 points a week later against Cincinnati. Against the Jets, this Browns defense looked like "The Steel Curtain."

This past Sunday, the Jets could manage just 13 points against an Arizona Cardinals team that gave up 35 points the week before to a Carolina Panther team not exactly known as an offensive juggernaut. The Panthers are playing without their best receiver (Steve Smith), who is out for the year. They are also without their first (Stephen Davis) and second (DeShaun Foster) string running backs.

The timing of Chad Pennington's shoulder injury was perfect from a schedule standpoint. Pennington, who is likely going to return this Sunday against Houston, missed starts against Baltimore, Cleveland and Arizona, the 30th, 25th and 29th ranked offenses, respectively. All three teams have unstable quarterback situations. This allowed the Jets to compete with very little offense, and manage a 2-1 record with Quincy Carter at quarterback. Carter, a bad fit for their West Coast offense because he's a one-read quarterback, provided just enough offense for the Jets to win the last two games and stay in the wild-card hunt. Now Pennington likely returns this week to start the homestretch featuring teams all possessing good offenses – Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, New England and St. Louis. 10 and 13 point aren't likely going to cut it in these games, so Pennington comes back at the perfect time . . .

It looks like Pennington has finally learned his lesson about reckless scrambling. Two years in a row, the Jets lost their franchise quarterback because he was running around and put himself in harm's way. The Jets coaches have hammered into his head during his down time that he has to do a better job of self-preservation. Most of the top quarterbacks are very good at that. There is a good reason that signal-callers like Green Bay's Brett Favre and Indianapolis' Peyton Manning have such long consecutive start streaks going. They aren't going to run around like Atlanta's Mike Vick. After sitting out the last month thanks to a shoulder injury suffered on a head-first dive scrambling against Buffalo, Pennington now realizes – discretion is the better part of valor.

"What you try to do as a player is play smarter, obviously," said Pennington. "When you're scrambling with the football, you learn how to get down, when to get out of bounds, those types of things. You don't play as freelance as you do when you were younger. So I've learned that through this injury, how to play smarter." . . .

The Jets did a good job holding their ground in the Shaun Ellis negotiation. The defensive end wound up with $15 million in guaranteed money. That is the same amount offered to him in training camp. It's a similar deal to what defensive end Wale Ogunleye got from the Chicago Bears this summer. But with all the money the Jets are now paying Ellis and defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, you have to wonder how they will be able to sign John Abraham, who is making himself a fortune this year. Not only is Abraham rushing the passer well, but he's improved appreciably as a run defender this year. He had three impressive run stops against the Cardinals. Abraham stopped running back Josh Scobey on the line to end the Cardinals second drive. On the next drive, Abraham looked like he was shot out of a cannon, coming off the edge to stop Scobey for no gain. At the end of the first half, Abraham stopped Scobey again for no gain again.

The Jets might have to put the franchise tag on Abraham to insure they keep him around at least for one more year, but they don't want to do that. The franchise tag is terrible for the salary cap. Say the tag this year for defensive ends is $7 million. If the Jets sign Abraham to a one-year tender for that amount, the entire figure counts against the cap. Jets cap guru Mike Tannenbaum wants to avoid this scenario. When you sign a player to a long-term deal, you can spread the money over a long period, and create small cap figures the first few years of the deal. If Abraham plays under a one-year tender, it will be tough for the Jets to sign right tackle Kareem McKenzie.

One factor that will help in the Abraham negotiations is that Tannenbaum and Abraham's agent, Tony Agnone, have a great working relationship . . .

The fact that tight end Chris Baker wasn't on the injury report last week was very misleading. The last couple of games, Baker has been a non-factor in the offense, and a big reason why is that he's playing with a broken bone in his right hand. This makes it very hard for him to block or receive consistently. Don't you think this is an injury worthy of being on the injury report? The Jets injury reports have been very strange this year. Safety Jon McGraw has consistently been listed as "probable" and "questionable" during weeks he clearly wasn't going to play . . .

The Tampa Buccaneers last week promoted running back Ian Smart from their practice squad to their regular roster. They are very high on him. The Jets made a mistake letting him go this summer. The Jets return game, both punts and kicks, has been a major disappointment this year, and Smart showed this summer he could have really helped. The Jets instead decided to go with Santana Moss and Jonathan Carter as their punt and kick returners, respectively, and it just hasn't worked out. Moss has been a dynamic punt returner in the past, but that, for the most part, was before he became a starting receiver. Now that he's a starting wideout, he seems more into self-preservation, than having a hell-bent, kamikaze style like Smart, or the Jets talented returner from 2002, Chad Morton. As for the kick return game, it might be the worst in football. Jonathan Carter has great speed, but very little feel for his blockers, and isn't good a making players miss. Lamont Jordan and B.J. Askew are too big to be good kick returners.

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