Plaxico Burress: How Good Can He Be for the New York Jets?
He is a long way from his greatest catch, the game-winning catch in the 2008 Super Bowl against the undefeated New England Patriots. This is also a guy who ruined the 2008 season for the New York Giants after his arrest, as they struggled to finish the season and then proceeded to be eliminated in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
What I'm trying to say is he's a perfect fit for the Jets.
The Jets are risk takers and those risks have panned out in the past (see Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes). Rex Ryan seems to know how to get the most out of his players, and I wouldn't be surprised if he pulls out that magic on Burress.
Plaxico can be a pain in the you-know-what, and his decision making is in question after his arrest, but on the field, he can be a difference maker for the Jets.
How good can he be? Let's find out.
Burress is 6'5". He has a size advantage over every cornerback I can think of. In contrast, Braylon Edwards is "only" 6'3". This leaves Mark Sanchez with more room for error when throwing in Plaxico's way.
Speaking of Sanchez, he had a 54 percent completion percentage in last year's regular season. That number is a little low because the Jets did go through stretches where their receivers did not catch the ball (like the 9-0 loss to the Packers). With Burress, Sanchez can throw a ball up and have greater than a 50-50 chance of the wideout using his size to catch the ball.
With his size, Plax can be physical with cornerbacks and fight for his space. This physical advantage will be a big factor in the beginning of this season, when he is trying to get back to full speed after his time away. This size is also key in the most important area of the field: the red zone.
Red (or Green) Zone
The red zone is where Burress can do the most damage for the Jets. New York can even use the fade route he ran in Super Bowl XLII in the same way. They ran a similar route with Santonio Holmes in the Houston game last year and it was successful, but Holmes used quickness and stealth rather than size.
The Jets running game struggled in the red zone at times (AFC championship game), and with a defense like they have, when they get into the red zone, seven points are much bigger than three.
Defenses have to take men out of the box in order to cover Burress, and in a 1-on-1 matchup in the end zone, he can be lethal. The Jets scored 20 touchdowns on 50 trips to the red zone last year. With Plaxico, expect that number to go up.
He's the No. 2 Receiver
The Jets' No. 1 receiver is Santonio Holmes. He's the playmaker and the guy who defenses have to keep any eye on at all times. He can break a tackle and be gone in the blink of an eye (just ask the Browns and Lions), so a normal team (not the Eagles) would have to put its best corner on Holmes and try to limit his yards after a catch.
This leaves a mismatch on Burress. No cornerback in the NFL can match up with his height (too bad the 6'2" Antonio Cromartie plays for the Jets), so forget about a No. 2 corner.
Let's not forget about Burress' speed, as well. He can blow by a corner as well as out-jump one. He can beat you in many ways.
With the Giants, Plax was their No. 1 receiver and still was a dominant. With the Jets as a No. 2 receiver, who knows? He may be slower and he may be rusty, but the addition of a No. 2 WR like Burress seems favorable for the Jets.
Burress signed a one-year deal worth $3.017 million this offseason with the Jets. So other than trying to restore his reputation and prove that he can still play football, he is still trying to earn his next contract.
Everyone is aware that Michael Vick became Michael Vick again in his second season, including Burress. If he can have a good first season, he will get a big payday in his second year.
That's something to motivate him.
Not only do the Jets have two receivers who garner attention, but they have a pretty good running game. LaDainian Tomlinson probably will not be the same this season, but this is the time for Shonn Greene to step up.
The running game did not always show up in the biggest games of the year. It was shut down by Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game, went unnoticed in the "Monday Night Massacre" against the Patriots (although the whole team did) and didn't show up in games against the Dolphins (at home) and Green Bay.
The Jets need the running game to be good consistently and allow Sanchez and the passing game to use play-action for big gains.
If they can continue their success running the ball, the Jets will have a lot of weapons this season on offense.
Burress and Giants head coach Tom Coughlin did not get along. Burress was frequently late to team meetings and pushed the rules against Coughlin. He was not a team player all the time with the Giants.
If one coach can change Burress, it is probably Rex Ryan. Ryan's love for football and his players is infectious, and if he can reach Plaxico, this experiment may strike gold for the Jets.
As I said before, the Jets signing Burress is a risk. At 34 years old and having not played in two seasons, he could totally lose his speed and his knack for football. It's just natural decline, especially after being away for so long.
He may not be the threat the Jets hope for. He may not have the stamina to be an every-down wide receiver, something that would hurt the Jets.
He may not have changed at all and could still be a selfish player who doesn't care about the rules. Asking Burress to be his old self when he was with the Giants may be asking for too much, but it could turn out much worse for the Jets as well.
Asking Burress to be a superstar and expecting him to be a superstar is unrealistic. He is going to have a slow start with Gang Green, trying to feel his way back into the game. The first couple of weeks may not be good for him, and he may not be an impact player in those games.
Still, be patient with him. Let him get back into game shape and find his way. If he can be a reliable player for the Jets, this signing was a success.
If he makes the catches he's supposed to make, attracts attention away from Holmes, Keller and the running game and is a team player, then he has done his job with the Jets.
2011-12 prediction: 32 receptions, 450 yards, nine touchdowns
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