Strug­gling quar­ter­backs face off in Jets-Rams tilt

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

Ryan Fitz­patrick knows ex­actly what Case Keenum of the Rams is go­ing through. They’re both start­ing quar­ter­backs who ap­pear to be sim­ply keep­ing the seat warm for some­one else.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. >> Ryan Fitz­patrick knows ex­actly what Case Keenum is go­ing through. They’re both start­ing quar­ter­backs who ap­pear to be sim­ply keep­ing the seat warm for some­one else.

If it were up to many Los An­ge­les Rams fans, Keenum would al­ready be on the side­line and No. 1 over­all pick Jared Goff would be run­ning the show. The chants of “We Want Goff!” have grown louder with each pass­ing week with the Rams (3-5) on a four-game los­ing streak and Keenum’s per­for­mance medi­ocre, at best.

“Those are things that are be­yond our con­trol,” Rams of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Rob Bo­ras said. “When Jared gets asked to play, he’s ready to go, and the guys will get be­hind him. It’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing to see.”

But for now, coach Jeff Fisher is stick­ing with Keenum , who has thrown for 2,004 yards and nine touch­downs with 11 in­ter­cep­tions, to face the Jets (36) at MetLife Sta­dium on Sun­day.

“Jared is im­prov­ing,” Fisher said. “But, Case right now, es­pe­cially against this de­fense, gives us our best chance. It’s an ex­tremely com­pli­cated de­fense and they can pres­sure the quar­ter­back. They can do any­thing they want to do. They’re very, very tal­ented. Our fo­cus is this week against the Jets, and Case will be un­der cen­ter.”

Keenum has done his best to block out the calls for his backup, and he’s work­ing to­ward try­ing to make the Rams’ of­fense a more ef­fi­cient unit. Los An­ge­les is ranked 31st in over­all of­fense, with only Min­nesota worse.

“We all have got enough tal­ent, we all have got enough drive, enough will, and enough in­tel­li­gence to get the job done,” Keenum said.

Af­ter set­ting a fran­chise record with 31 touch­down passes last sea­son, Fitz­patrick has strug­gled might­ily. He leads the NFL with 13 in­ter­cep­tions (with just eight TDs) and the Jets rank 23rd in over­all of­fense.

Fitz­patrick has al­ready been benched, but got his job back when Geno Smith was lost for the sea­son with a knee in­jury.

But now Fitz­patrick is deal­ing with a sprained left knee that has his sta­tus for Sun­day un­cer­tain, al­though he has prac­ticed on a lim­ited ba­sis. He’ll play if he’s healthy, but plenty of Jets fans want to see Bryce Petty, a fourth-rounder last year, get a chance to show if he might be New York’s quar­ter­back of the fu­ture.

Petty went 2 of 2 for 19 yards when he briefly stepped in for Fitz­patrick last Sun­day at Mi­ami for his first reg­u­lar-sea­son ac­tion. If Fitz­patrick plays and strug­gles at home this week­end, the chants of “We Want Petty!” could be hard to ig­nore.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the quar­ter­back usu­ally gets the brunt of the pun­ish­ment, but it comes with the ter­ri­tory,” wide re­ceiver Brandon Mar­shall said. “But it’s not just one guy, so I get it.

“I un­der­stand it. But, it’s not just Fitz’s fault. It’s all of our faults.”

Here are some other things to know as the Rams travel from Hol­ly­wood to Broad­way to face the Jets:

Run­away Rams

Mid­way through his frus­trat­ing sopho­more sea­son, Los An­ge­les’ Todd Gur­ley is 18th in the NFL with 451 yards, but his 3.1 yards per carry are the worst among the NFL’s top 45 ball car­ri­ers.

Fisher and Bo­ras don’t blame Gur­ley for the run­ning game’s strug­gles. But while they’ve praised his even de­meanor, they’ve also in­di­cated this week that they would love to see more bursts of speed and cre­ativ­ity.

Gur­ley’s car­ries are down in the past four weeks, but that’s partly due to the deficits faced by the Rams in the fourth quar­ter. “I’m not say­ing that he’s not frus­trated, but he’s not show­ing it,” Bo­ras said. “He’s a team guy.”

O-Line Makeover

The Jets are head­ing into this game with just two play­ers on their of­fen­sive line start­ing at the same spot they were at in Week 1. Cen­ter Nick Man­gold has missed two games with a sprained an­kle, and will likely miss a third.

He’ll be re­placed again by Wes­ley John­son. Left tackle Ryan Clady was placed on sea­son-end­ing in­jured re­serve this week with a shoul­der in­jury. Ben Ijalana re­places him af­ter start­ing the sea­son at right tackle, where Breno Gi­a­co­mini is back af­ter sit­ting out the first seven games with a back in­jury.

That leaves only left guard James Car­pen­ter and right guard Brian Win­ters as the con­stants.

Turnover Test

The Jets have com­mit­ted an NFL-worst 19 turnovers, and that’s tan­ta­liz­ing to a Rams de­fense that has forced only one turnover dur­ing its four-game los­ing streak.

While the Los An­ge­les de­fense has been largely dom­i­nant, the fo­cus was on at­tack­ing the ball this week with a view to giv­ing bet­ter field po­si­tion to the strug­gling of­fense.

No Fade For Forte

Af­ter hit­ting a lull a few games into the sea­son, run­ning back Matt Forte has picked up his pro­duc­tion in the Jets’ ground game. He has rushed for 100, 82 and 92 yards in the last three games, with four TDs, while also catch­ing a scor­ing pass in that span.

Forte could have had a lot more last week at Mi­ami, when he got just 12 car­ries, but New York split the work­load be­tween him and Bi­lal Pow­ell. Still, Forte ranks sev­enth in the NFL with 634 yards rush­ing.

AP FILE PHO­TOS

Jets quar­ter­back Ryan Fitz­patrick looks to pass in game against the Browns. Ryan Fitz­patrick knows ex­actly what Case Keenum is go­ing through. They’re both start­ing quar­ter­backs who ap­pear to be sim­ply keep­ing the seat warm for some­one else.

Rams quar­ter­back Case Keenum re­acts to scor­ing on touch­down run against the Lions.

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