The Jets' 27-7 win over the Bengals Sunday night was a feel good story for the team, highlighted by the return of Plaxico Burress following two years in prison. But there was plenty of other storylines for New York from the emphatic win and they all came from the Jets offense:
1. Still Holmes Sweet Holmes — Lost in the Burress hoopla — and perhaps rightly so — was the fact that Santonio Holmes is very much the catalyst of this offense. Holmes gave the Jets an early lead, hooking up with quarterback Mark Sanchez over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown. In the second quarter, when the Jets were forced into fourth-and-1, Sanchez found Holmes for a quick hit to get two yards and secure the first down. It is clear that Holmes is still clutch and the go-to player for this offense and his pairing with Burress could be among the most dynamic in the league.
“We have a lot of weapons and I think it’s going to be something when you put Plaxico out there with Santonio,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “That’s going to be a special group I think.”
2. McKnight Shines — Last year’s fourth-round pick Joe McKnight endured a tough rookie season. The running back out of USC showed up to rookie camp out of shape and wheezing, then never got on track with the rest of the offense. His appearances were spotty and he never showed much. But with Shonn Greene out of Sunday’s game with a staph infection, McKnight carried more of a load, resulting in seven carries for 36 yards and two receptions for seven yards. They were baby steps for McKnight, who showed up to camp this year in prime physical shape and didn’t let a concussion in the Monday night preseason opener slow him down.
“He ran great. He made that big bounce. Everything was shut off and he’s so explosive,” Ryan said. “He’s a mismatch. I thought he played really well.”
McKnight showed enough versatility and explosiveness that he might just be a good option to step into the slot on occasion or perhaps run the Jets Wildcat package now that Brad Smith left for Buffalo.
3. More Red Zone Help – The signing of Burress wasn’t the only development on Monday night that might bode Sanchez. It might come from an unexpected source. Training camp did not start well for second-year tight end Jeff Cumberland. He had several missed catches and a few mixups in drills — par for the course for a young player still very much learning the position. But in the days leading up to the preseason opener in Houston, Cumberland began to settle down and realize his enormous potential. Cumberland, a converted wide receiver, has a large frame and good hands that will make for an intriguing target down the field, and his blocking has shown improvement over last year.
“I think that with Jeff’s development, we have a lot of big players who can step up for the offense and help us get first downs and help in the red zone,” right tackle Wayne Hunter said.
Cumberland finished with two catches for 43 yards and looks like he might surpass Matt Mulligan as the tight end behind Dustin Keller.
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for Jets news and updates from training camp and all season long.