When the Jets signed Plaxico Burress in August, they were hoping to get a presence who could help them improve an offense that was 30th in the league last year in the red zone. Through two weeks, the Jets have improved drastically inside the 20-yard line.
The improvement is no thanks to Burress, who has yet to register a catch -- let alone a touchdown -- in the red zone.
The reaction to Burress may be a knee-jerk reaction from fans who are concerned that he didn’t haul-in a catch in the Week 2 blowout win of Jacksonville. Five Jets registered multiple catches in the win, but Burress was only targeted once. In 2008, Burress’s last season in the NFL before serving two years in prison, he had 15 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown in the first two weeks of the season.
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It now becomes a question of whether the Jets’ $3 million dollar deal for Burress is worthwhile given that he’s 34 years old and had a long lay-off from the game. The Jets let a productive Braylon Edwards walk this past summer and there is no one on the roster who can replicate that position if Burress fails to do the job.
“I think he has a good sense of the system; he has a good sense of what we’re trying to do. I think obviously, Week 1, he had some huge plays, a big touchdown pass,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “Last week it was one of the weeks where they kind of surprised us and played all this soft Cover 2 and just kind of doubled him.”
This season he has just four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown -- all in the Week 1 win over Dallas. Burress was shut out of that game until the fourth quarter when the Jets’ offense suddenly burst to life.
“It’s different for me, it’s a different role because I’ve always been a guy that has been on the field all the time. I just take it as, ‘I’m just not in a certain package or whatever it may be.’ Maybe I don’t fit the scheme of whatever they’re trying to do at that particular point,” Burress said. “I just try to perfect whatever they have for me when I’m in the game.”
On Sunday, the Jets tried to force a pass to Burress in the fourth quarter win in what looked like a desperate attempt to get him a touchdown and a morale boost. Against a mediocre Jaguars secondary, the 6-foot-5 wide receiver failed to get any separation and quarterback Mark Sanchez rarely looked at him on his reads.
But Sanchez and head coach Rex Ryan praised Burress for drawing double teams that opened things up for the rest of the receivers, eight of whom caught balls against Jacksonville.
“He’s a great player. Sometimes the great players, you can look on the stat sheet and see where a great player can affect a game. But there’s also a thing how great players make other players better and give them opportunities. I think that’s what he does as well. He’s constantly drawing the coverage over there,” Ryan said. “Sometimes when you see like Randy Moss -- he’s a great vertical receiver -- you can see the numbers and all that, but sometimes even when he wasn’t catching passes, he was affecting the game. I see Plax in a similar mode.”
The Jets believe that Burress being shutout in Week 2 was an anomaly and he will bounce back to be a major contributor this season.
“We might all be sitting here after this game, next game, wherever, all like, ‘Wow, that was the only game he never caught a ball in,’” Ryan said. “I think that will happen.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.