10 Questions Partially Answered from New York Jets vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Jets fans come into 2011 confident, but with a lot of questions surrounding their team. Can Burress play? Will Mark Sanchez take the next step? Will the defense generate a pass-rush? How will we replace Brad Smith's contributions? Do we have a kicker and a punter? Does Derrick Mason have anything left in the tank? And finally, can Rex finally deliver on his Super Bowl promises?
Jets fans didn't get any answers to those questions from one preseason game, but did get some positive signs with the 27-7 thrashing of the Bengals on Sunday night.
1. Did the Jets Defend the Run Well?
Losing veterans along the defensive line like Shaun Ellis and Jason Taylor, and the retirement of oft-injured Kris Jenkins leaves questions about the Jets' interior run defense.
The Jets held Cedric Benson and the rest of the Bengals rushing attack to 55 yards. However, the first thing we learned is that the Bengals may be the worst team in the NFL this season.
The Jets did not have to honor the Bengals passing game as rookie A.J. Green dropped a few passes and Andy Dalton seemed to believe there were rushers in his face all night, even when the Jets rushed three or four at the rookie passer.
So we need to reserve judgement on the Jets run defense until they play a more well-rounded offense.
2. Was Plax Ready to Play?
For one night, the answer is a resounding yes. The Jets got Burress involved right away with a deep slant pass that Burress grabbed for a first down into Bengals territory on the Jets' first play from scrimmage. He made a terrific backshoulder catch, an exquisite timing pattern that had to make a Jet fan smile. Finally, Burress made a highlight reel diving touchdown catch on a flag pattern ran to perfection (pictured).
For one night, Burress looked all the part of a stud NFL wideout. However, the real questions are how will Burress respond week after week, and how will he deal with nights when he does not get the ball?
There was a definite effort on the part of Mark Sanchez to get Burress the ball often - Sanchez even forced a throw to Burress that clearly wasn't open.
3. Can the Jets Run the Ball Effectively?
Shonn Greene was held out of the game with an apparent infection in his foot. The third-year back says he is "fine" and that he expects to play next week.
Without him, the Jets running game was ineffective. The Bengals have some talent along their defensive line with Geathers and Johnson holding up the end positions, but the Jets ought to have been able to rush it effectively with the passing attack the Jets were sporting Sunday night.
Tomlinson looked slow attacking the holes, and Powell was only able to muster a few yards. Chris Jennings did break a 69-yard run, but that was in what Marv Albert would call, "garbage time".
The Jets need Greene to return to health and be the standout back he was supposed to be last season.
4. Can This Be a Ball Hawking Defense?
One of the criticisms of the Jets last season was that for a supposedy "great defense", they didn't generate any takeaways. The Jets came up with two interceptions of Andy Dalton and one interception from Bruce Gradkowski on Sunday night, and they nearly recovered a fumble.
While this is a great sign for the Jets, you need to consider the source. Dalton looked lost all night and his two picks were errant passes: one a high throw that was tipped and the second a terrible overthrow despite the fact that there was no pressure facing Dalton.
Obviously it's a great thing the team came up with the interceptions, but it remains to be seen if the Jets can do this to better offenses.
5. Can the Jets Generate a Pass-Rush Without the Blitz? Is Maybin the Answer?
The Jets scoured the waiver wire for pass-rush help, and came up 2009 first-round pick Aaron Maybin, formerly of the Buffalo Bills.
Once highly regarded, the bust word was thrown around when discussing Maybin's progress his first two seasons. Looking for a renaissance with the Jets, Maybin came up with a sack and generated some pressure that may have forced Dalton to throw earlier than he wanted to on a third-down incompletion.
For one day, Maybin looked the part of a pass-rushing specialist. However, it remains to be seen if he will put it together for the Jets.
6. Can Kerley Replace Brad Smith?
The Jets lost Brad Smith to the Bills in free agency and need to replace his production on the field at the wilcat look, and in kick returns. The loss of Jerricho Cotchery coupled with the fact that the Jets prefer not to use Jim Leonhard to return punts, also creates a hole at punt returner.
Kerley tried his hand at punt returns and kick returns, but wasn't used in the wildcat Sunday night to run the ball.
He showed some good speed and hands, but made a poor decision when he did not fair catch a punt that was downed at the one yard line.
Kerley showed excellent speed, but seemed to go down easily when hit on his kick-return attempt.
7. What About the Kicking Situation?
Folk vs. Novak. Folk kicked a ball out of bounds on a kickoff and missed a 43-yard field goal in the first half. He also connected from 50 yards in the third quarter.
Novak made his only field goal attempt, a chip shot of 30 yards.
The remaining two preseason games will tell the story for these two.
8. Who Will Win the Punting Job?
The 2011 Jets need to replace steady veteran punter Steve Weatherford (pictured).
Neither T.J. Conley, nor the Aussie Chris Bryan really distinguished themselves on Sunday night though Bryan did down one inside the twenty. It's hard to believe a team with championship aspirations would go with an unproven punter for the full season.
Particularly, when this is a team that will be looking to use field position and its defense to win games.
9. Can Derrick Mason Replace Jerricho Cotchery?
Cotchery was an effective third down receiver for the Jets. Mason is a great veteran, but can he stay on the field? He missed Sunday night's game to injury. Though I am certain he would have played had it been a regular season game, nagging injuries and aging receivers is usually a bad combination.
10. Is Mark Sanchez Ready to Be a Star?
Sanchez had a great game Sunday night against the Bengals. He looked in command of the offense and made several impressive throws. He finished 12-20 for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
He made a perfect timing throw, a backshoulder look to Plaxico Burress and his Santonio Holmes on a key third down conversion with a beautiful lob pass.
His touchdown pass to Burress was a perfectly thrown ball in the face of pressure, and he hit Dustin Keller perfectly in stride to get out of the shadow of his own endzone.
Sanchez seems to be putting it all together and could be in line for a huge season for the Jets.