Commentary

Jets' turbulent preseason ends ... finally

'Hard Knocks,' injuries and lack of leadership marked Gang Green's eventful campaign

Updated: September 3, 2010, 10:34 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Jets' lights, camera, action preseason ended Thursday night with a 21-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. It was a memorable, if not impressive, summer.

They say the camera adds 10 pounds, and the Jets will go into the season lugging more baggage than they would like. Aside from the obvious concerns -- no Darrelle Revis, an injured Calvin Pace and a mediocre Mark Sanchez -- the world learned on the latest episode of "Hard Knocks" that the coaching staff is worried about a lack of leadership on offense.

The overexposed Jets underachieved in the preseason, hardly resembling a team ready to back up its Super Bowl bravado. It might not mean anything, of course. If the Jets beat the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener, the preseason problems will be forgotten. This is a veteran team, quite capable of flicking on the proverbial switch, but that's hardly a gimmie.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
Howard Smith/US PresswireDespite a rocky preseason, Rex Ryan and the Jets have their sights set on Super Bowl glory.

Not when your best defensive player is holding out. Not when your best pass-rusher is recuperating from foot surgery. Not when your quarterback still is experiencing the growing pains of youth.

Panic? No way. There was none of that in the Jets' locker room after their JV beat the Eagles' JV on Thursday.

"Stuff happens in games, but we've been working hard and practicing with a purpose," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "We've got the Super Bowl in our mind."

Ryan & Co. did a lot of talking in the preseason, and a lot of cursing. Ryan seemed reasonably satisfied with the overall results (the Jets' record was 2-2), but he was "really disappointed" with the number of red zone penalties and turnovers. They finished with eight lost fumbles in four games, including three by rookie running back Joe McKnight, who will survive Saturday's final cut only because he was a fourth-round draft pick.

There was a lot of sloppy stuff from the Jets, who gave away 14 points to the Eagles on fumble returns for touchdowns. Ryan managed some gallows humor ("Our offense lit up the scoreboard -- both scoreboards"), but he wasn't happy.

If you based your opinion of the Jets on the latest episode of "Hard Knocks," you'd wonder whether the team was distracted. Before the third game, Ryan made a fiery speech, imploring leaders to step up while questioning the focus. The cheeseburger incident -- defensive players devouring McDonald's burgers while stretching for a recent practice -- pushed him over the edge.

Linebacker Bart Scott said BurgerGate -- and the ensuing tongue-lashing -- isn't an accurate reflection of the team's attitude and Ryan's feelings.

"That was just one practice; Rex didn't say that about the whole preseason," Scott said. "Nobody went through the motions. We had a hard camp, we worked hard and we got a lot accomplished."

Now Ryan wants to see more leadership on offense, which is interesting because the Jets dumped two leaders, Thomas Jones and Alan Faneca, in the offseason. Ryan told the team he can't be the only leader and that the alleged void doesn't have to be filled by the obvious candidates, fullback Tony Richardson (because he's the most experienced starter) and Sanchez (because he's the quarterback).

"It was a good message for us to hear," Sanchez said. "It hit home with a lot of players. Hopefully, we'll take ownership of that and move forward in a positive way."

Funny how leadership works. If the offense starts clicking, everything will seem fine. Everybody is a leader when the team is lighting up the scoreboard. The Sanchez-led offense, which got the night off, produced only two touchdowns in 18 possessions in three games. Sanchez wasn't particularly sharp, and he knows it.

"People ask for a grade; I'd say B-minus or C-plus," he said of his personal performance.

Sanchez won't have his most explosive playmaker, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, for the first month of the season, and that will hurt. Holmes will miss the first four games because of a league suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy. Another concern for a team that has a few.

The best thing that could be said about the preseason is that it's over. As Cotchery said, "It seems like this preseason took forever."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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