Spotlight - QB Chad Pennington, New York Jets
Posted 8/25 by Jason Wood and Chase Stuart,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
If you had your draft in early to mid August, chances are you landed Chad Pennington at a discount. After tearing his rotator cuff last year, Pennington underwent surgery and the recovery time was unclear. Some feared he wouldn't be ready to start the season much less play at 100% effectiveness. But after a few weeks of training camp those concerns appear moot. Chad has practiced and played in preseason games, and has the complete green light. If you're to believe some published reports, the surgery actually STRENGTHENED his arm. In any event, the uncertainty surrounding his rehab artificially drove his draft stock down.
According to Antsports, Pennington was being drafted in the 11th round of 12-team leagues a few weeks ago, as the 18th or 19th QB off the board. Since August 13th, Pennington's ADP has risen to QB15, and he's going a full two rounds earlier.
The question you have to ask yourself is whether a healthy Pennington is worth a mid round pick as your backup? I say ABSOLUTELY.
Consider the following:
1) New OC Mike Heimerdinger -- Heimerdinger is the man credited with turning Steve McNair into an elite passer. His style of spreading the offense and using some shotgun seems ideally suited for Pennington. Remember, Pennington played most of his college career out of the shotgun at Marshall. In any event, it's almost a certainty that Heimerdinger will wrestle more productivity out of the offense than departed OC Paul Hackett. He'll create schemes that maximize Pennington's uncanny accuracy (career 66% completion) while being aggressive at taking shots downfield.
2) L. Coles has come home to roost -- Laveranues Coles and Pennington were at their best playing together. And now, after an offseason trade, Coles is back from a 2-year stint in D.C. Early training camp action proves what many of us already knew, they have an onfield chemistry that can't be quantified. With Coles healthy again, expect him to be an 80 catch, 1200 yard receiver in this offense.
3) J. McCareins knows Heimerdinger's offense -- WR2 Justin McCareins was average in his first season with New York last year. But he's reunited with Heimerdinger (his OC in Tennessee), who in 2003 oversaw the offense that saw McCareins catch 7 TDs and average better than 17 yards per reception.
4) C-Mart has found the fountain of youth -- Last season Curtis Martin became the oldest back to ever lead the league in rushing and has showed no signs of slowing down during training camp. His presence (along with a quality backup in Derrick Blaylock) ensure two things. One, the offense will be balanced and defenses can't overplay the pass. Two, play action fakes are going to be deadly.
- Pennington is highly accurate (66% completion), fundamentally sound, and entrenched as the starter on an offense with lots of weapons
- Any OC would've been an improvement over Hackett, but the Jets went ahead and got one of the best in Mike Heimerdinger
- The return of Coles assures Pennington of a reliable playmaker and someone who can move the chains and get critical yards after the catch
- Pennington has yet to play a full season as the Jets starter, and although his shoulder appears fine it would be remiss not to acknowledge his injury history
- The Jets are unsettled at RT, relying on unproven Adrian Jones to replace Kareem McKenzie (now a New York Giant)
- The Jets should remain among the bottom half of the league in passing attempts as they run the ball with Martin and control the tempo with a young, aggressive defense
The Jets aren't going to abandon the run anytime soon, nor should they. With that in mind, Pennington isn't going to throw 550-600 times this season. But, when you're a 66% passer playing in an offense well suited to your talents; you don't have to be among the league leaders in attempts to be an effective fantasy contributor. I wouldn't look at Pennington as a fantasy starter, week in, week out, but as a mid round backup or part of a platoon, he's highly appealing. Every season there are one or two QBs who ascend into the upper echelon and Pennington certainly has the skills, personnel and coaching staff for that to happen.
Chase Stuart's Thoughts
Chad Pennington was the first QB selected in the 1999 draft. After sitting behind Vinny Testaverde for two seasons, he exploded on to the scene with a terrific 2002 season. But Pennington has been inconsistent since then, and has had difficulties staying healthy. Despite being in the public eye for years, Pennington’s relatively inexperienced compared to most quarterbacks: twenty other starting QBs have thrown more career passes than Pennington, including Joey Harrington, Drew Brees and David Carr.
Pennington has not yet reached his potential as an NFL quarterback, but this might be his breakout season. The addition of Offensive Coordinator Mike Heimerdinger represents a huge upgrade over the conservative and inflexible approach of Paul Hackett. Pennington will benefit greatly from the trade for TE Doug Jolley, the first athletic receiver the Jets have had at the position in a decade. Anthony Becht was a strong blocker, but was a poor receiver and a below average athlete. But nothing will make Pennington happier than the return of WR Laveranues Coles. Coles averaged 94 yards per game the last thirteen weeks of the 2002 regular season, after Pennington replaced Testaverde.
Much of the preseason has focused on Pennington’s recovery from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. While some worried about his ability to come back in time for the regular season, Pennington rounded into form and was practicing fully by mid August. Pennington even overthrew a streaking Justin McCareins on a 50-yard bomb during one preseason game.
- Pennington remains one of the most accurate QBs in the league. He delivers his passes with a soft touch, making nearly all of his throws easy to catch.
- The additions of Coles, Jolley and Heimerdinger should improve both the quality and quantity of Pennington’s pass attempts this year.
- With a strong offensive line and running game, Pennington is able to exploit favorable match-ups in the secondary. He also has one of the best play fake moves in the NFL.
- Did we mention that Paul Hackett’s gone? Nothing could be worse for a fantasy quarterback than having Hackett as an offensive coordinator. During Hackett and Pennington’s three years together, the Jets ranked 29th in pass attempts, despite averaging 7.33 yards per attempt (the 5th best mark in the league).
- So far, so good: All the reports on Pennington’s rotator cuff signal a clean bill of health.
- An awfully tough schedule: No quarterback has a harder fantasy schedule than Pennington this year with nine games against top ten defenses (Buffalo, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Miami, New England and Carolina).
- The loss of RT Kareem McKenzie and TE Anthony Becht will negatively affect the Jets blocking.
- Injuries: Is Coles’ toe going to cause his problems? Will Pennington suffer any setbacks with his shoulder? Will he suffer a new injury for the third straight year?
- Pennington seems unlikely to rank in the top half of the league in pass attempts, putting a serious cap on his fantasy potential. Combined with his lack of rushing, there’s little chance of him cracking the top five.
Chad Pennington’s never thrown 400 passes in a season, and there’s little chance of him reaching 500 attempts in 2005. How difficult is it for a QB to rank in the top five without 500 pass attempts or significant rushing stats (an equally unlikely event for Pennington)?
Very rare. In the past ten years, only two quarterbacks (out of the 50 top five QBs) have accomplished that feat. If you drop the lower limit to 495 pass attempts, you remove half the list: Peyton Manning passed 497 times last year, and Kurt Warner had 499 attempts in 1999.
Ironically, Vinny Testaverde (421 attempts in 1998) was able to accomplish that feat for the Jets in 1998. Randall Cunningham is the only other QB to rank in the top five without a ton of pass attempts or rushing stats. Also in 1998, he passed 425 times but threw for 34 TDs.
Pennington looks like a very long shot to rank in the top five this year, which means it won’t be hard to find another quarterback with more potential after someone drafts Pennington. Considering his very difficult schedule, he’s probably a long shot to rank in the top ten as well, and won’t make a very good QBBC candidate.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
I see big upside in Chad this year - reminds me of Curtis Martin undervalued last season after a bad year. The new OC will have him air it out and everything I've seen so far shows he is healthy. Add an upgrade with Coles as well as a TE who can catch the ball and you have a QB that will be drafted around 15-20 who has a chance to break into the top 10 IMO.
I think I will air on the side of the new OC in this case. When he showed up in Tennessee, he made McNair into a viable fantasy starter. On top of that, Jets bring back Coles, add Jolley, and McCareins goes back to his familiar spot from his Tennessee days. I think I will take the McNair averages on this one only because they didn't pay Heimerdinger 1 mill to be conservative.
He has a tough schedule, and doesn't need to have big games to win. Plus I would argue people are fans of Chad the real time QB not the fantasy QB which makes his ADP a little higher than it should be.
Chad Pennington Projections
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