It seemed like a shotgun marriage from the onset, but through six weeks of the NFL regular season, the Jets and Plaxico Burress still seem stuck at the altar. At least they haven’t started bickering yet.
The stat line is less than inspiring — just 14 catches and 218 receiving yards with two touchdowns this season — Burress has become the new whipping boy for an offense that remains decidedly average. Brought in to replace the effective Braylon Edwards, Burress has yet to integrate himself into the Jets offense. Making the process even harder is that Burress hasn’t played football since Nov. 2008 when he was with the Giants.
Burress was reinstated to the NFL this past summer, having served two years in prison for criminal possession of a weapon, but his game still remains in lockdown.
“I’m not worried as far as me catching up to anybody. I’m working hard at just getting better every day. I don’t look at myself and say, ‘I want to be where he is.’ I know what I can do in this league, I’ve done it before, there’s just some work ahead of me,” Burress said. “I go in each week and as the weeks go further and further by, the more comfortable I get, more comfortable with the offense, where I need to be. When the season first started, during the games I was coming out of the huddle going the wrong way.”
It’s all the right words, but the Jets are hoping that it will all work out for them. Much like he did with Eli Manning while with the Giants, Burress was supposed to be a big target receiver who could provide the Jets help in the red zone and on third downs. He has just two catches in the red zone this season, one of which was a touchdown, and has failed to show the separation that previously made him one of the league’s most dangerous receivers.
Now 34 years old and three years removed from his last NFL games, Burress is having to adjust and acclimate to the league once again. He’s older and maybe wiser, but the Jets have yet to emerge from the honeymoon stage of this marriage.
“I think part of it is going to be how teams are playing us. When our running game improves, I can see us getting more of the eight-man spacing, if you will, single-high coverage-type things than we’re facing. It might not be this week [against San Diego],” Ryan said. “They’re a big zone team. Almost 80 percent of the time they’re in zone defense. There are ways of getting him the football. I believe we will get Plaxico the football more, but a lot of times your coverage dictates who gets the ball thrown to them.”
It didn’t seem to be an issue last year for Edwards, who had 53 receptions for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. Edwards signed for just a half million dollars more with the 49ers than Burress did with the Jets, meaning that the Jets bypassed a younger, proven player who already knew their offense.
“You know what, it’s so easy to say, ‘Would you do this? Would you do that?’ We’re happy that Plaxico decided to come here — that he chose us,” Ryan said. “There were a lot of different opportunities for him, and he chose to play for the Jets, and we couldn’t have been more happy about that.”
Burress hasn’t had a touchdown since Week 3 and had just one catch on Monday night in the 24-6 win over the Dolphins. His quarterback insists that progress is being made, although the numbers say otherwise. At some points, the Jets will need to get a return on investment from Burress after taking an awfully big leap of faith when they signed him.
Time is still on their side right now, but maybe not for long.
“It’s one of those things where that kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight. You see quarterbacks and receivers that really click, they’ve been together for a while,” Sanchez said. “They’ve missed a lot more throws than they’ve hit and then they start to equal those numbers up. It’s a process.”