Barring Clemens recovery, Pennington to start
Given the cryptic nature of the New York Jets when it comes to discussing injuries, nothing is official yet. But barring an unexpectedly quick recovery by Kellen Clemens from rib and shoulder injuries, eight-year veteran quarterback Chad Pennington will return to the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans.
Pennington has not started since an Oct. 28 loss to Buffalo, but despite five sacks, played well at times in relief of the injured Clemens during last Sunday's 20-10 loss at New England. In that game, Pennington completed 25 of 38 passes for 186 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I certainly feel that I'm a starter, absolutely," Pennington said. "There's no question in my mind. I can always help someone win."
The injury to Clemens, who has started the last six contests and has seven overall starts for the season, occurred on his first pass attempt against the Patriots.
Given that the Jets face a decision on the composition of their quarterback depth chart in the offseason, the preference likely would be for Clemens to start the final two games, and provide team officials even more data on the second-year player. But there is a suspicion that Clemens has a cracked rib and that he will miss at least Sunday's game, and possibly the Dec. 30 season finale against Kansas City.
Despite offering some evidence that he might be ready to assume the starting job full-time in 2008, Clemens' seven starts have been marked by inconsistency. The team's second-round choice in the 2006 draft, and widely regarded as the quarterback of the future, the former University of Oregon standout has completed only 117 of 225 passes, for 1,414 yards, with four touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, for an anemic passer rating of 59.0.
Clemens, 24, has not demonstrated the arm strength many scouts felt he had, and he has been indecisive and held the ball too long, as evidenced by the 24 sacks he has absorbed. New York is only 2-5 in his seven starts, and Clemens has just one game in which he threw more touchdown passes than interceptions.
A first-round choice in the 2000 draft, Pennington, a former league passing champion, has seen his arm strength diminished by two surgeries to repair his right rotator cuff. With a base salay of $4.8 million for 2008, his future with the franchise is uncertain, and the Marshall star could well be in the final two weeks of his Jets' tenure.
"I don't know what the organization's stance on that is and I'm not really concerned about it, to be honest with you," he said. "I know whatever happens, something good will happen for me. I'm a confident person and I feel very good about myself as a professional and how I approach my occupation."
Coach Eric Mangini remained undecided Thursday about his starting quarterback, but said a day earlier that the decision would be based on whether Clemens was healthy enough and prepared mentally. With just one day of practice remaining, the chances of that appear slim.
"We'll go through the week and see how it goes," Mangini said before practice Thursday. Clemens was limited again in practice Thursday.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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