Good things can get lost in scuffling affairs such as the Jets’ preseason-opening 17-6 loss at Cincinnati less than 24 hours ago. But one good thing about the Jets’ night that won’t be overlooked was the play of Joe McKnight.
“I thought Joe played extremely well,” head coach Rex Ryan said, mentioning his RB and defending NFL kickoff-return leader first in his remarks at the top of his postgame news conference.
For the evening, McKnight rushed 32 yards on seven carries and had 34 yards on three receptions. All but an 8-yard run took place in the second half. Three consecutive third-quarter touches produced first downs.
“We didn’t win, so I can’t say I had a good game,” said the engaging McKnight. “I did pretty good.”
The third-year man instead spent time dissecting his only minus play of the night, a 1-yard loss around right end with 4½ minutes left in the game.
“I kind of messed around and lost some yards. We can’t afford to lose yards in a position like that,” he said. “We try to get all the yards we can. I kind of ran backwards, something I can’t do toward the end of a game.”
McKnight also was analytical of his competition with RB Bilal Powell, one of the bright lights of the first two weeks of SUNY Cortland training camp, for the job of third-down back.
“I feel like it’s still wide open,” he said. “I’ve still got to be more consistent to do that role. I’ve got to work on my pass protection. Bilal’s a great pass protector. That’s something I’ve got to work on.”
Yet McKnight has some elements of his game that he’s invested some pride in. One piece of his game I asked him about was his offseason bulking up. Is he feeling comfortable with his weight/power gain?
“I’m right at 205. That’s pretty good. I feel good,” he said, then asked me, “Did I look good running between the tackles?”
Why, yes, I said, yes, you did.
“OK,” he said with a laugh. “So I feel good.”
Comparing preseason stats with regular-season numbers is not always recommended. Same genus, different species. But while McKnight has had two better regular-season stat lines — his 2010 Game 16 feature role against Buffalo (34 touches, 173 yards) and last year’s outing against Tim Tebow’s then-Broncos (22-121) — he agreed that last night’s 10-touch, 66-yard showing was as comfortable as he’s felt in the Jets offense.
“I feel the best I’ve felt, in-shape-wise, focus-wise, mentally,” he said. “I just feel like everything has slowed down.”
If he keeps speeding up the process of becoming a complete back, it will help the Jets offense put a lot of mileage between them and the touchdown-less showing vs. the Bengals.
Trying to Block It Out
Ryan was not happy, nor should he have been, about the Bengals’ blocked punt and touchdown recovery by Cedric Peerman in the final half-minute of the first half.
“You’re not going to beat anybody — I don’t care if it’s Pop Warner, a preseason game in the NFL or a regular-season game — if you get a punt blocked, the odds of you winning probably aren’t real good,” Ryan told reporters. “I know you guys will come up with the stats for that, but I’m sure it’s at least 80 percent against you that you’re not going to win the game.”
Ryan was in the ballpark and his point is well-taken. I don’t have preseason stats but in the NFL regular- and postseason since 2000, the team that has blocked a punt in a game has a winning percentage of .582 (92-66).
But taking it to the Jets’ level Friday night, when a team blocks a punt AND recovers/returns it for a TD, the winning percentage rises to .675 (27-13).
Then consider HOME teams that score a BPR-TD in a game. Winning percentage: .773 (17-5).
Two Green & White examples that bear these trends out were last year’s McKnight/Isaiah Trufant combo that supplied one of the important pieces to the opening-night 27-24 win over Dallas, and the Jamie Henderson/Chris Hayes tag team at Carolina in 2001 that produced the Jets’ only TD in their 13-12 win over the Panthers, a.k.a. the Shrek Game.
Tebow was the game’s top rusher with 34 yards on four scrambles. He’s the first QB to top the Jets in rushing yardage in a preseason game since Ray Lucas had 42 yards on five runs in the 1998 summer opener at Green Bay. … There were extenuating circumstances — injuries to WRs and on the OL — but the bottom line is that the Jets’ 57 net passing yards (including sacks) vs. the Bengals was their fourth-lowest total in a preseason game since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Training camp at SUNY Cortland is dwindling to a precious few days. Sunday’s practice, open to the public, is scheduled to start at 10:15 a.m. Monday is closed, Tuesday and Wednesday are open and both start at 8 a.m. Thursday is closed and then the Jets break camp later that day, take Friday off, then host the defending Super Bowl champion Giants at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night.
Tags: Bilal Powell, Cincinnati Bengals, joe McKnight, Ray Lucas, Rex Ryan, Shrek Game, Tim Tebow
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