Analyzing the Jets quarterback sweepstakes

The Jets veteran minicamp last Thursday-Saturday was the first opportunity for the media to watch full practices. They got to watch six. Here is the take of JC's Dan Leberfeld on the current state of the Jets QB sweepstakes between Chad Pennington, Patrick Ramsey, Kellen Clemens and Brooks Bollinger, after watching the four perform in minicamp.

So how would you size up the Jets' quarterback competition following the team's mini-camp?

You can't. It's way too early.

As far as I can see, it's still a dead heat between the four candidates -- and the race hasn't even reached New Hampshire or Iowa yet.

There was one report that rookie Kellen Clemens stole the show, and was the standout signal-caller of the three-day camp.

Based on what? If you want to assess who displayed the best arm, you might cast a vote for Clemens. But as we all know there is much more to the position than having a howitzer.

To say Clemens was the best quarterback at the mini-camp might be a reach. He threw a number of interceptions, including two in the red zone in one drill. And as for his arm, while it's true he put impressive velocity on a number of short-to-intermediate passes, his deep balls need some work. The Oregon product threw a few ducks.

Write this down. There is no way Clemens is going to be the Jets' starting quarterback in September, barring injuries. He's not ready. If the Jets are 3-11 in December, that's another story. That might be the time to get him some reps, not early in the season. He's a work-in-progress right now. Not only is he going through the maturation process any rookie quarterback experiences, let us not forget he missed a big chunk of his senior season with a broken leg. He's still shaking the cobwebs off and attempting to get his leg to 100 percent.

As for the man on center stage, Chad Pennington and his surgical right shoulder, he gets mixed reviews.

His most impressive pass might have been one he didn't complete. He threw an impressive 30-yard bullet to the corner of the end zone. It was a perfect spiral. He also completed a 45-yarder down the sidelines to Justin McCareins.

But on another play you saw how far he still has to go. Pennington short-armed a pass to Dante Ridgeway in the flat. The ball skipped on this very short attempt.

This play points out one of Pennington's biggest challenges. The shoulder is perhaps the most complex joint in the body. There's a lot of wiring in there, so to speak. And when you rewire it in surgery, you have to teach the muscles and nerves how to do things all over again. This takes some time -- so while rehabbing, your mind is thinking one thing, but your shoulder might not be thinking the same thing.

So Pennington still has a ways to go in retraining his twice-repaired right shoulder.

Former Washington Redskin Patrick Ramsey was inconsistent in camp. He made a number of real nice throws, displaying the powerful arm that made him a first-round pick in 2001. But on other plays he showed happy feet when faced with a pass rush, a big part of his downfall in the nation's capital.

Brooks Bollinger was solid in camp but had a problem, at times, reminiscent to his starting stint last year: he struggled in the red zone. After impressively leading the offense down the field in a two-minute drill, he attempted to throw a screen to a running back. But safety Erik Coleman jumped up, tipped the pass and intercepted. It was similar to what happened at the end of the Atlanta game last season.

So you could make the argument that this competition is truly a dead heat right now.

But in all honestly, it's early in this race. And let's not forget that mini-camps are more about teaching than competition. Judging a mini-camp too harshly would be like panning a Broadway show early in dress rehearsals.

Remember, these quarterbacks are still attempting to learn coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense. So they still aren't totally comfortable with what are they are trying to do. Also, they are throwing to receivers, tight ends and running backs, going through the same mental battle.

As they like to say in the football world, "Nobody is on the same page."

But what is particularly interesting about this competition is that it is truly a competition. Unlike many other coaches, Eric Mangini is a big believer in the best players playing. No politics. No lip service. That is the Bill Belichick way. And Mangini learned most of what he knows about football from Belichick during their 11 years together.

For people who like training camp quarterback battles or controversies, if you want to call it that, the one in Jets camp this summer should be a doozy.

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