Last year’s Jets wide receiver trio was known as the “Flight Boys,” infamous for their sideline, arms-spread pose after touchdowns. With Santonio Holmes the only holdover from last year’s contingent – Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery were not brought back to the team– it was time for a name change.
The addition of veteran wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason has led Holmes to anoint this trifecta the “Flight Men.” Holmes is the young pup of this group of receivers as he enters just his seventh year in the league.
Holmes told Metro after the game that adding Mason, entering his 15th season, and Burress, entering his tenth, means “we have experience that can set us apart.” In one year, the Jets have gone from boys to men in their receiving corps. The potential shone on Sunday even as rain put a damper on much of the evening.
“It’s definitely going to be a long night for whatever defense comes to play us,” Holmes said.
It wasn’t exactly a jailbreak for any of the Jets wide receivers in Sunday night’s 27-7 preseason win over Cincinnati, but it was a solid night even as Mason sat out the game with an injury.
“We got those two special guys on the outside,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “And once we get ‘D. Mason,’ we’ll be rolling.
Both Holmes in the first quarter, and Burress 51 seconds before halftime, registered touchdown catches, perhaps jumpstarting what is supposed to be a marquee receiving bunch. Burress, who had three catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, logged the Jets' first catch of the game on the opening play of the Jets' first possession. The 20-yard reception over the middle signaled that Plax is back.
It was the end of a long road back for Burress, who hadn’t suited up since he was arrested late in November 2008 for illegal possession of a weapon. His subsequent suspension and prison time would be the Jets' gain as Ryan was able to lure the free agent to the Jets.
“It was almost an out of body experience,” Burress said. A surreal feeling.”
Sanchez locked in on Burress from the first snap. The drive faltered but on their next series following an Eric Smith interception, Sanchez hit Holmes for one of his three receptions in the game on a 16-yard slant to give New York a 7-0 lead.
It was “Flight Men” amongst the Bengals boys as the starting offense rolled out to a comfortable 17-7 halftime lead.
Sanchez missed a wide open Burress in the end zone on the Jets fourth drive of the game, but there was an air of confidence with Burress and Holmes that never existed last year with Edwards or Cotchery. Holmes and Burress provided hints of a lethal playmaking tandem, even if the rust was there from time to time.
“It is a work in progress, you see we missed on a couple,” Burress said. “It is going to come; this is what the preseason is for. I can see us really elevating our play.”
And Burress’ long frame was called into action when he linked up with Sanchez for a 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter -- dragging his knees and feet as he somehow stayed in bounds.
“He played great. Like I said, if we get the coverage a certain way good luck to you,” Ryan said. “He is a big target and when he is covered he is open.”
The hope is that Burress and Mason can turn an offense that last year was bland if not downright predictable into a more efficient machine. The Jets were 30th in the league in 2010 in red zone efficiency and their inability to punch in points cost them in Pittsburgh during the AFC Championship Game. If Burress can stand tall with his 6-foot-5 frame and help turn what were field goals last season into six points, then this team could be Super Bowl caliber.
“There is a sense that we as an offense can move the ball and with Mark being here another year, there is a comfort with this offense,” right tackle Wayne Hunter said. “Adding Plax to the mix is something that really can change us as a unit, make us much more difficult tog et off the field.”
And after Burress made his Jets debut last night, this team is feeling pretty “Super” about their prospects for the season.
“There’s potential here from the experience we’ve got, it is something that we feel can make us a very tough offense to defend against,” Holmes said. “There’s work to be done tonight but it was a good start.”