Jets vs. Bengals: Plax Is Back, As Backups Answer Call

The Jets put preseason game two behind them properly Sunday night, with a 27-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals while both resting key starters and unveiling WR Plaxico Burress in a feature role.

Despite the rain that continued through the contest, Burress, in his first NFL appearance since November of 2008, looked quick, agile out of his breaks, and hungry. Number 17 capped off an impressive return (3-66-1TD) with an over the shoulder 26 yard TD grab, on a third down lob from QB Mark Sanchez.

The Bengals brought their safeties up to the line of scrimmage prior to the play, leaving Jets receivers with one on one coverage. Should this be a sign of things to come, clubs may start to think twice about consistently trying to hurry Sanchez up offense while risking secondary numbers up close to the ball.

Sanchez read the defense and simply dropped quick in order to loft the throw to the 6’5 Burress, who outran the Bengals CB on the play in order to catch up to, and land underneath the perfectly thrown ball. The result was the most exciting play so far in 2011 for the new New York Jets. A club that now features a serious scoring weapon who may help the club climb out from the t bottom of the barrel red zone ranking of 2010.

Aside from the triumphant return of Burress to the field, other notable performances came from LB Aaron Maybin, signed this week after being released by Buffalo. Maybin looked fast speed rushing outside. Although he slipped on one attempt, the third year pro caused a strip late in the fourth quarter, albeit against the Bengals second and third string unit. Should Maybin be able to provide that same speed all year long, the Jets defense will have added an extra boost in disrupting opponent’s third down and long attempts.

Safety Jim Leonhard excited the crowd in his home return from a broken leg in November of 2010 with an interception. Backup LB Brashton Satele, the player that special teams coach Mike Westhoff suggested “open a pizza joint” last Summer on HBO’s Hard Knocks, picked off a second half throw as well, and was tackled just short of the goal line.

Maligned backup offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse settled in finally, perhaps thanks to the return of All Pro C Nick Mangold, who missed the opener at Houston due to a stinger suffered in practice days prior to the trip.

As for others, rookie QB Greg McElroy looked poised for the second straight week. This time during his second half duties as Mark Brunell sat for a second straight week. McElroy capped his efforts of solid decision making with a short rollout TD pass to RB Joe McKnight, who made some nice runs of his own in the battle for the number three job with Bilal Powell. The rookie RB out of Lousiville was quiet during his attempts. RB Chris Jennings broke a long late 4th quarter run that could keep him in the mix as camp heads into the latter stages.

Last week the questions surrounding the Jets centered on Burress and the club’s depth. Those issues were lessened to a degree tonight, despite playing a Cincinnati team undergoing a transition to the future from the Carson Palmer years.

With Shonn Greene, Derrick Mason, and a few other nicked up members of Gang Green resting on the sidelines and no apparent major injuries from the game to speak of, Jets nation couldn’t ask for more out of a rainy night in mid August.