Commentary

O's big show could be 'tip of the iceberg'

With wealth of options surrounding Sanchez, Jets' offense looks ready to take off

Updated: August 23, 2011, 8:18 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Statistically, it was an off-the-charts game for Mark Sanchez -- a pair of touchdown passes, no turnovers and a 121.5 passer rating. On a night in which his Cincinnati Bengals counterparts handled the ball like a wet bar of soap, Sanchez was money.

"Like I told him, 'Too bad it's not the regular season,'" Rex Ryan said after the New York Jets' 27-7 victory Sunday night at a water-logged New Meadowlands Stadium.

But here's the thing: The Jets also expect it in the regular season.

The team that brought you Ground & Pound in 2009 and 2010 suddenly believes it has the potential to be the Greatest Show of Turf. Well, maybe not the greatest, but definitely one of the most potent passing attacks in the league.

Plaxico Burress' impressive debut, highlighted by his circus touchdown catch, has fueled the Jets' optimism. The additions of Burress and Derrick Mason, combined with Santonio Holmes' return and Sanchez's extra year of experience, have them thinking they can do some serious damage on the scoreboard.

"We have a great defense -- we know that -- and I'm challenging our offense to score 28, 30 points a game," said Burress, who caught three for 66 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown grab. "I believe it's something we can do. We definitely have all the weapons to do so."

In case you're wondering, the Jets averaged 23 points per game last season, good for 13th in the league. It's quite a jump from 23 to 28, but to listen to Burress and Holmes, you'd think it's a gimme.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
Tim Farrell/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireRex Ryan, who had his offense playing "Ground & Pound" the past two seasons, expects the 2011 edition to be more explosive.

"It's going to be a long season for whatever defense comes up to play us," Holmes said.

On this night, against an under-rated Cincinnati defense, the Jets made all things seem possible.

There was Sanchez starting the game with a 20-yard strike to Burress, who played like it was 2007. There was Sanchez (12-for-20, 173 yards) a few minutes later, recognizing a soft Cover-2 defense and finding Holmes on a skinny post for a 16-yard touchdown.

"That was probably a terrible call by them, and a great call by us," Holmes said.

After a slow start on third down (0-for-6), the Jets perked up before halftime, with Sanchez directing a 10-play, 99-yard touchdown drive. The turning point was a 43-yard completion to a wide-open Dustin Keller, who later made a key third-down catch to set up the Burress touchdown.

Despite no running game, Sanchez was in command, spreading the ball to five different receivers. They did it without Mason (knee), whom Sanchez called "the glue" to the receiving corps because of his 15 years in the league.

"We've got a lot of weapons," Ryan said. "I think it's going to be something when you put Plaxico out there with Santonio and Derrick Mason. That's going to be a special group, I think."

Burress stole the headlines in his first game, making the kind of catch he probably dreamed about during his 20-month prison sentence. The man caught the game-winning pass in a Super Bowl, so he wasn't about to get too giddy about a preseason moment, but you could tell it meant a lot to him.

On a degree-of-difficulty scale of 1 to 10, Holmes gave it a 15. It was a back-to-the-quarterback, diving-into-the-end zone grab -- in driving rain, no less. That it came on a route adjustment, his response to a blitz pick-up, made it all the more impressive.

Before the snap, Sanchez recognized a blitz and barked a signal to Burress, who was matched against backup cornerback Fred Bennett. The Bengals were in Cover-Zero, meaning the cornerback had no safety help.

"It was one of those deals where you say, 'My guy is better than your guy, let's go play basketball,'" said Burress, who adjusted his route and ran a perfect fade.

Sanchez put up his shot, with blitzing corner Rico Murray in his face. Burress pushed off a bit -- so Bennett claimed afterward -- and slammed it home.

"He knew exactly what was coming with the pressure," Sanchez said of Burress, who missed nearly two weeks of practice because of a sprained ankle. "He has picked up the offense fast. To make that adjustment, it takes younger guys a long time to do. But he's been doing it so long, he knew exactly where to go."

It's not going to go like this every week. This is an old receiving corps with Burress, 34, and Mason, 36, and that's always a risky proposition. But if they stay on the field, who knows?

"This," Burress said, "is the tip of the iceberg."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE

MORE NFL HEADLINES