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Star-Ledger-Jets: Martin can expect to carry the early load


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Jets: Martin can expect to carry the early load


Saturday, August 30, 2003


Star-Ledger Staff

Jets coach Herman Edwards wouldn't dare tip his hand before Thursday's opener in Washington, but with the injury to quarterback Chad Pennington and the insertion of Vinny Testaverde into the starting lineup, it's likely Edwards will lean on running back Curtis Martin even more than usual, at least until Testaverde gets in rhythm with the offense.

And that could take as long as four weeks, offensive coordinator Paul Hackett said. The Jets have a bye in Week 5.

Perhaps that is why Edwards expressed concern yesterday about the running game. Martin rushed for just 19 yards on 14 carries during the preseason, and in their biggest test of the summer, the Jets' first-team offense gained only 26 yards in 13 attempts against the Giants last Saturday.

In 2001, the Jets rode Martin to 10 victories and a playoff berth, and it wouldn't be a shock if they try to do that again this season, especially with Pennington out at least 12 weeks with a fracture-dislocation of his left wrist. Martin rushed for a career-high 1,513 yards and 10 TDs in 2001, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, also a career best.

"We didn't run the ball probably as well as I anticipated we'd try to run the ball," Edwards said of the preseason, before hurrying to a meeting with his coaching staff regarding final cuts. "At times, we ran it in spurts. And at times, we didn't.... You have to be able to run the ball, period.

"You don't want to become one-handed with your offense where you can't run the football. That's a concern. Do I think we can't run the ball? No. But I'd like to have seen more."

When told Hackett believes it will take several weeks for Testaverde to get the passing game clicking, Edwards didn't disagree.

"It'll be a work in progress," Edwards said. "I think it'll be a lot better after four games than the start of the season. But that's just natural when you change that position (quarterback) all of a sudden a week before the regular season starts."

As is his nature, Edwards found a positive in Testaverde not playing against the Eagles and taking only 21 snaps in the preseason.

"He's fresh," Edwards said. "He has a live arm."

Looking back on the 3-2 preseason, Edwards said there was good and bad. In addition to the struggles of the running game, Edwards said the Giants' ability to move the ball on the first-team defense was a concern.

He was pleased with the play of wide receiver Curtis Conway and Santana Moss, the kicking game, with punter Dan Stryzinski and kicker Doug Brien, and felt the defense played well against the run, with the exception of the Giants game.

"We just have to go out and play now," Edwards said. "Now we're going to find out as we open up against the Washington Redskins where we're at."

If Pennington

heals quickly, he could return sooner than 12 weeks. If so, the Jets would consider using the shot-gun formation to eliminate him taking the snap from center, a high-velocity exchange that could aggravate his injury.

The Jets must cut

19 players by tomorrow's 4 p.m. deadline to get down to the 53-player limit. The injury to Pennington takes away a roster spot and makes for some difficult decisions. Edwards said he will keep four QBs: Testaverde, Pennington, Brooks Bollinger and Jamie Martin.

Todd Husak and Marquel Blackwell are expected to be released.

Blackwell, a rookie free agent, was 7-of-12 for 111 yards and two TDs against Philadelphia Thursday night. Edwards said he helped himself and could catch on with another team.

Rookie DT Dewayne Robertson,

the only starter to play Thursday, continued to take baby steps. He wasn't credited with a tackle in roughly 15 plays and had just four tackles in the preseason.... LB Victor Hobson, who had been struggling after a fast start, had nine tackles against the Eagles. "That's what you want to see, a guy bounce back," Edwards said. "He has played in a lot of pain with an ankle and knee."

Bollinger (knee) will return

to practice tomorrow and will be the No. 2 quarterback against Washington, Edwards said.... LB Marvin Jones (hamstring), CB Ray Mickens (knee), SS Derek Pagel (ankle) are also expected back. ... CB Andrew Davison (ankle) is questionable for Washington.

GM Terry Bradway,

reeling from the loss of Pennington, was hit with another dose of misfortune when his son, Mike, a promising senior WR with Mainland High School in the Atlantic City area, tore a knee ligament in practice and is out for the season.

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