Friday night the New York Jets kicked off their preseason against the Cincinnati Bengals. The game featured various story lines, such as Tim Tebow's highly anticipated debut at quarterback, fan's first look at Tony Sporano's new offensive system, as well as the Jets new 4-3 defensive scheme.
As expected both offenses initially sputtered out of the gate and had trouble sustaining drives, and the defenses took some time to settle into their assignments. There were pleasant surprises, issues that need to be addressed, and plenty to take away from the game when it was all said and done.
Pertaining to Mark Sanchez, he had a respectable night. He finished 4 of 6 for 21 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions, and 4 yards rushing. Although he only played the first quarter, Sanchez appeared to have a good control of the offense. New York was in and out of their huddles quickly and had no confusion in getting to where they needed to be. He was efficient going through his reads and was decisive, making sure he got the ball out of his hands quickly.
Tebow was Tebow, finishing 4 of 8 for 27 yards. Outside of a third quarter interception where he got caught staring down his receiver by Bengal linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Tebow looked fairly decent passing from the pocket. But how Tebow really made an impact Friday night was with his legs. Twice on third down, Tebow tucked the ball and used his mobility to keep drives alive. He finished with a team-high 34 yards on the ground, averaging just less than 9 yards per carry.
The offensive line was the biggest red flag for New York, surrendering 5 sacks, and failing to establish any kind of push in the running game. They looked slow off the ball, and were unable to pick up the various blitz packages Cincinnati threw at them. Sanchez was sacked twice, and third string quarterback Greg McElroy went down three times in the fourth quarter alone. A major contribution to Sanchez's struggles last year was the offensive line's inability to keep him upright for longer than 2 seconds. The Jets cannot afford to put the fate of their franchise quarterback in the hands of a shoddy offensive line for a second consecutive season: the protection must improve.
The rushing attack was mostly forgettable, but second year running back Joe McKnight was a pleasant surprise. He finished with 32 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving, including a 21 yard catch and run that was extended by McKnight putting a great move on a defender in space. McKnight ran the ball with a confidence that he has been so sorely lacking since he has entered the league. He showed off his shiftiness in the open field, and used his speed to hit what few holes the offensive line could open up hard. If McKnight can continue this level of play, the position of third down back will surely be his.
The defense was spotty at best for most of the night, but first round pick Quinton Coples had a good showing in his first real action as a professional football player. Coples finished with 5 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble as he applied near constant pressure off the edge and helped give New York fans a glimpse of what is to come from the young defensive end. Third round pick Demario Davis also turned in a decent outing, racking up three tackles from the outside linebacker position.