Jets Slide Sanchez to Bench

Knee injury forces Kellen Clemens into lineup

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Let's hope Joe Girardi's regular players do a better job of following his instructions than Mark Sanchez did. The rookie quarterback's head-first dive against Buffalo got the Jets a first down, but it is going to cost them their starter for Sunday's must-win game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The injury came days after Girardi showed up at Jets practice to school Sanchez on the fine art of sliding feet-first, although it is hard to argue with Sanchez's instinct to get as many yards as he could and keep the drive alive. It's a big loss from the dual goals that have been foremost in the team's mind all season. He'll lose some development time, especially painful against a team that he should be able to shred, and it comes with the Jets unable to absorb another loss and still hope to make the playoffs.

    Now the latter goal rests on the untested shoulder of Kellen Clemens, who looked like a guy who has made a habit of losing quarterback competitions after Sanchez left the Bills game. That should mean a healthy amount of playing time for both Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones as the Jets try to limit the chance that Clemens can hurt them against the 1-11 Bucs.

    While it's tough to feel too confident about your chances with Clemens at the helm, this is a game the Jets should still win. The aforementioned running game has produced well all season, even when teams stack the line to limit their effectiveness. And the Jets defense should be able to pressure Bucs rookie quarterback Josh Freeman into mistakes. He threw a Sanchez-esque five picks last Sunday and that was against a Panthers defense that isn't as good as the one the Jets will have on the field this weekend.

    All of the above comes with the caveat that the Jets have historically had a problem winning games that they "should" win. Every Sunday offers a chance to write a new chapter, though.

    Rex Ryan said that Sanchez was upset to hear the decision about his status for the Bucs game, but it was the right decision. Risking more serious injury with long-lasting ramifications for a game against a bad team is too risky an idea, even with flickering playoff hopes. Hopefully the week off gives him a chance to get healthy enough to take a three-game winning streak into their game against the Falcons.

    Thus concludes this week's lesson on why sliding is an important skill for a quarterback. Tune in next week for another installment of teaching Mark Sanchez quarterback fundamentals.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.