Richard Fronapfel
by on August 23, 2011
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It had been 1,000 days since he last caught a pass in an NFL game, and it's safe to say that at roughly 7:15 EST on Sunday, August 21st, all eyes in the sparse crowd at the New Meadowlands Stadium were trained directly on Plaxico Burress.
On the first play from scrimmage, wunderkind Mark Sanchez hit number 17 (formerly inmate number 09-R-3260 at Rikers Island) for 20 yards, and the debate started anew...just what will Burress mean to this Jets' offense in 2011?
Rusty or not, fragile or not, on Sunday Burress looked every bit like the game-breaking receiver the Jets hoped he would be when they shocked also-rans the Giants and the Niners by ponying up $3MM in guaranteed money to sign the former pro bowler.
Before he's anointed as the Jets savior, or dubbed the "missing piece" to turn the Jets from AFC Championship losers to Super Bowl winners, there are three key questions that the talented receiver needs to answer with his actions before Jets Nation become believers.
DURABILITY
After two and a half years away from the game, can Plaxico actually stand up to the rigors of an NFL season? This has been the subject of much debate among the NFL pundits. Burress came out of prison with a good deal more muscle and clearly in great shape, but will that translate to the practice field and on Sunday? Only time will tell. Rolling an ankle in non-contact drills is not a great omen, though.
SUPPORTING CAST
When the Jets made Santonio Holmes their number one priority in the shortened off-season, and then lured veteran Derrick Mason away from the Ravens, they positioned themselves to have a dangerous passing attack in 2011. Add match-up nightmare Dustin Keller and a well-established running game, and there's no shortage of fire power for 3rd year trigger man, Sanchez. This embarrassment of riches begs the question(s): Are there enough balls to go around? Has Sanchez become the dependable presence he has shown in the playoffs or the middle-of-the road field general he's shown in the regular season? Will Plaxico be the red zone threat that everyone predicts or merely a decoy when the Jets get deep into enemy territory?
DESIRE
Burress has said all the right things since signing with Gang Green, and by all accounts, he has a big chip on his shoulder. That could bode well for his prospects for a big year in 2011. A motivated Burress would actually be a bit of a change from the earlier incarnation with the Giants. Plax was always dangerous and always solid, but he never demanded the ball with the game on the line. Early indications are that he may be that type of leader this year. In fairness, our only game film is from Sunday's skirmish against the hapless Cincinnati Bengals, so this bears watching.
When the season begins for real on September 11th, the opinions of the pundits, the speculation of the fans and the promise of training camp will give way to real, regular season evidence. Will Jets fans be chanting "Plax-i-co, Plax-i-co" or "Bring Back Braylon"? Only time will tell.
Go to the Jets Runway to see photos, opinions, videos and much more on Gang Green.
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