Hiding Tim Tebow in a pile of vanilla

Tim Tebow. (nfl.com)
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To curb expectations of fans and reporters who have been obsessing over formations run in Jets practices that include Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano said the Jets’ offense “was going to be vanilla” in their first preseason game.

He wasn’t kidding. The offense and the game itself was a reminder that this first preseason game, now more than ever after only four practices as mandated by the collective bargaining agreement, isn't really more significant than intrasquad scrimmages. There were no touchdowns for the Jets. There was no Wildcat.

Most of the first half, the only time in the game where the game was peopled mostly by players of consequence, was a 3-3 snooze. That is, until the Bengals blocked a punt in the endzone for a touchdown. Normally, such a catastrophic play would have been met by a comically incensed facial expression by special teams coach Mike Westhoff. But Friday night being what it was, Westhoff’s look was resigned, and seemed to say, “We’ll figure this out, but somebody’s getting cut.”

SOMEONE WHO'S NOT GETTING CUT IS QUINTON COPLES, who sparkled in extended playing time. Coples dominated one sequence with a tackle, a pressure, and a batted pass. He later had a strip sack, on which he easily dispatched the guard assigned to block him, thus displaying his quickness, balance, and power.

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He accomplished all this while playing at multiple spots along the defensive front. Coples might not be Bruce Irvin, the pass-rushing specialist whom the Jets leaked was their preferred player until Seattle took him with the pick before. But the early returns validate the Jets’ post-draft spin regarding Coples: He might not a single-handed answer for the Jets’ pass-rushing problems, but he can help a defense by doing many things well.

IT WAS JUST ONE PLAY, BUT IT WAS BOUND TO STICK IN PEOPLE'S minds. With the Bengals facing 3rd and 10 from midfield on their second possession, Andy Dalton looked for running back Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis. With seeming ease, Green-Ellis got about five yards of separation on Bart Scott, who was covering him. Green-Ellis caught the pass and turned upfield for an 18-yard gain.

Scott had expressed dissatisfaction with his role after last season, on which he was removed from the field during passing situations and played just 64 percent of the snaps compared to 84 percent in 2010. In order to be more agile in pass coverage, he lost 15 pounds. He and Rex Ryan, who helpd launched Scott’s career by giving him a chance as an undrafted free agent a decade ago in Baltimore, evidently discussed the matter and came to some peaceable accord, but the specifics of what that meant for Scott's playing time were never revealed.

Afterward, Ryan said the lapse in coverage was a “technique issue.” Maybe he’s right, but maybe he’s trying to deflect from the possibility that the Jets’ attempt to shield the soon-to-be-32-year-old Scott from coverage responsibilities might be more of a “speed issue.”

KUDOS TO CBS ANALYST AND FORMER JETS LINEBACKER Greg Buttle for calling attention to the fallacious statistic that the Jets’ “defense” allowed 363 points last year, the 13th-most in the NFL.

This plays into the narrative that last year’s disappointing season was a team-wide collapse, perhaps stemming from the “out of hand” locker room that LaDainian Tomlinson is fond of talking about.

But it’s not true. By DVOA, the FootballOutsiders metric that measures units in terms of play-by-play effectiveness, the Jets defense ranked 2nd last year, compared to 5th in 2010 (and 1st in 2009).

So how did the Jets give up so many points? Buttle alluded to it on Friday when he said that a lot of this happened when the defense “was drinking Gatorade.” He was referring to the fact that the Jets offense gave up seven touchdowns last year.

Grantland’s Bill Barnwell astutely cited two other offense-related factors that explain why the Jets’ defense gave up so many points:

First, they faced 201 drives last year, tied for most in the league. They only allowed 1.55 points per drive, which was 6th best, but because they were on the field so often, they gave up more points than their play-by-play performance would indicate.

Second, the Jets average starting field position on defense was 21st last year, much worse than in 2009 and 2010, when they were in the top ten both years.

IN AN OTHERWISE COLORLESS PRESEASON GAME, THANK God for Tebow: The guy is nothing if not entertaining.

He got really pumped up after a first-down scramble, and made several more plays with his legs en route to being the Jets’ leading rusher. But he gave a lot back with his arm by throwing a ghastly interception.

THE STARTING OFFENSIVE LINE GAVE UP TWO SACKS and couldn’t move the ball on the ground. And no, it wasn’t Wayne Hunter’s fault: He sat the game out with tightness in his lower back.

BILAL POWELL HAS THE INSIDE TRACK ON BEING the third-down back this year because he’s a better pass-blocker than Joe McKnight.

Buttle, the CBS analyst, unfairly blamed Powell for an early sack of Sanchez by saying he didn’t pick up the defender who looped around to sack Sanchez. It's true that he didn’t pick that defender up, but that’s because he was blocking another blitzer. Rather, the confusion seemed to be on the other side of the line, as evidenced by a post-play pow-wow between Mark Sanchez and Nick Mangold.

STEPHEN HILL DROPPED A PASS. UNDER normal circumstances, this would be insignificant. But Hill only caught 49 passes at Georgia Tech while playing in a heavily run-oriented offense. He’s all projection at this point, so his performance will consequently be more heavily scrutinized than most.