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Jets’ Preseason Game 2, Win 27-7; Beginning of a Beautiful Relationship?

Plaxico Burress (Credit:  Kevin Hagan / New York Daily News)

The Jets signing of 6’5″, 226 lb former Superbowl Champion Plaxico Burress for a one year, $3 million contract is a fine deal based on the intriguing possibilities alone. If the Jets wildest dreams for Burress (1,200 yards receiving) or even more mild expectations (~800 yards and moderate attraction of double coverage) come to fruition, the signing becomes an outright coup. Not only in terms of value for the dollar, but in getting the Jets to the Super Bowl. The Jets 27-7 preseason victory Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals painted, amongst other things, a wonderful picture of what Burress may do for the Jets.

Sanchez Has a Wealth Of Options At His Disposal In 2011

Yes, the Cincinnati Bengals (Jets 27, Bengals 7), are a dismal, desultory squad, with a mediocre secondary and as gentle a pass rush as you’re going to see in the NFL this year. Still, after seeing Mark Sanchez (a tidy 12/20, 173 yards, 2TD, 0 INT) complete three 20+ yard passes to the lithe and lanky Burress, the last of which comprised of Burress manhandling Cincinnati’s one-on-one coverage in the zone, achieving separation, and then making a beautiful dive and slide 26-yard TD reception under monsoon-like weather conditions was a poetic beginning to what could likely be a dynamic offensive tandem in the NFL this year.

Although the Jets offense did not have 37 year old wide receiver Derrick Mason (knee injury) at their disposal, Sanchez effectively used what was still a wealth of starting receivers in the first half. Santonio Holmes is amongst the best in the NFL at converting highly difficult passes into receptions, as evidenced in the first quarter by his leaping off-balance 4th and 2nd catch on the sidelines that Sanchez over-threw into heavy Bengals coverage.  An even more notable development in the game was Sanchez’s usage of tight end Dustin Keller. Keller, who started last year with a torrid 5 touchdown in four game clip, only to then not score another touchdown for the rest of the season once opposing secondaries started to cover him more closely, was quiet during the first quarter of last night’s contest. In the second quarter, however, once Sanchez had already targetted Holmes and Burress a few times on prior offensive drives, Sanchez connected with Keller up the middle on 3rd and 1 from the Jets 1 yard line; Keller, whose acceleration is amongst the most explosive in the league, burst down the open field for a 43 yard reception. As Sanchez learns how to maximize his bevy of offensive options – which should only become more impressive once Derrick Mason returns to the Jets lineup – look to Keller as the Jets silent killer when teams will be forced to put double coverage on the other Jets receivers.

Sanchez received ample protection throughout the game, though this is neither here nor there considering Cincinnati’s benign defensive line.

Ladanian Tomlinson Struggles

The Jets run attack, on the other hand, showed mild signs of concern. It’s highly unlikely that Ladanian Tomlinson will put in massive rushing numbers at the onset of the Jets season as he did in 2010.  In the first half of Sunday night, Tomlinson (9 carries for 16 yards, 0 first down conversions) showed little explosiveness and no signs of his legendary lateral movement from his prime. This was to be expected; he’s slated to be the Jets 3rd down back this year behind Shonn Greene, and may even split time with second year running back Joe McKnight out of USC, who made a savvy off-tackle run for a first down in the 2nd half of the contest. Tomlinson did make a nice 10-yard reception off a slot pass from Sanchez in the second quarter, showing once again just how versatile and unpredictable the Jets passing game can be in 2011.

The Bengals Offense Was Easy Pickings, And the Jets Picked Away

The Cincinnati Bengals offense – lead in the first half by second year quarterback Andy Dalton out of TCU needed little help from the Jets to be absolutely terrible throughout the contest. Still, the Jets were more than willing to capitalize on the Bengals sloppy passing game. Safety Eric Smith recovered a tipped pass for an interception early in the first quarter; two Cincinnati possesions later, safety Jim Leonard intercepted another Dalton pass, one which hit Leonard right between his numbers. In the second quarter, corner back Antonio Cromartie laid a thunderous tackle after a Cincinnati 11 yard reception, showing some sign that Cromartie has taken great efforts to improve his physicality on the field, which was called into question before he arrived to the Jets in 2010.

Some Minor Signs, Both Ominous and Promising

The only two ominous signs to be gleaned from this preaseason contest are the Jets Red Zone defense and the performance of rookie kick off and punt returner Jeremy Kerley. The hapless Bengals scored on their one red-zone opportunity against the Jets, manipulating fairly easily the Jets’s predictable insistence on running zone coverage. And while we all know that losing kick-off returner Brad Smith to the Buffalo Bills will hurt the Jets special teams to some degree, Kerley’s performance on Sunday evening leaves something to be desired. Kerley allowed one Bengals punt, which he should have caught near mid-field, to sail over his head and land close to the 20 yard line. He fumbled another punt, and his punt return yardage was poor (4 receptions, 5.8 yards). Kerley did however average 31 yards on 2 kickoff returns; hopefully, some of his otherwise questionable play were just rookie jitters.

When the second half commenced and rookies and practice squad players were unleashed on the field to fight for roster spots, Jets backup QB candidate Greg McElroy (6/9, 59 yards, 1 TD) looked poised, continually making strong decisions, including a nice low and inside touchdown pass to Joe McKnight in the 3rd quarter. McElroy seems like a heady athlete and a hard-worker, and should blend in nicely with Sanchez during practices. Overall, it looks like Rex Ryan has his Jets squad playing hard and as a unit early in the preseason, which bodes well for another entertaining and successful Jets season.

About Argun M. Ulgen

When I was young, my dad and I used to watch a lot of MSG midnight replays of Knicks basketball after he came home from work. One night at 1am we grilled steaks and watched the Knicks somehow hold onto a 4th quarter lead. Sometime later, I started to fall in love with reading all sorts of literature, including sports books.The dawning of this romance came soon after my deep relationships with HBO reruns of its fine series programming, not to mention the Encore channel's more than generous replays of Scarface, came to a close. I write, but only when I don't feel like being idle. Feel free to AIM me at YoProtein (that's "Yo, Protein!") with comments or suggestions about my work. I more than welcome feedback.

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One comment for “Jets’ Preseason Game 2, Win 27-7; Beginning of a Beautiful Relationship?”

  1. New Post: Jets’ Preseason Game 2, Win 27-7; Beginning of a Beautiful Relationship?

    Posted by Sports of New York | August 22, 2011, 1:59 pm

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