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Monday August 22nd, 2011

Plaxico Burress

Plaxico Burress' debut with the Jets was a success, hauling in three passes and a TD. (AP)

If this is how Plaxico Burress can play after nearly three years off, then there's reason for Jets fans to be excited about how he'll look once he gets a few games in his back pocket.

Making his first game appearance for the Jets -- and seeing his first NFL action since Nov. 23, 2008 -- Burress hauled in three catches for 66 yards and a touchdown Sunday night. Mark Sanchez targeted him on his first pass, a 20-yard completion down the middle. And he found him again on his last pass, a sprawling 26-yard TD grab by Burress near the left corner of the end zone.

Sure, it was a preseason game against the Bengals, but all indications at this point are that Burress can help the Jets' offense.

On New York's other first-half touchdown, Sanchez faked a handoff to LaDainian Tomlinson heading left, Burress held the defense by bluffing a wide receiver screen on the right, then Sanchez fired one down the middle to an open Santonio Holmes.

Assuming Burress can stay healthy -- possibly a dangerous assumption -- he is not only another viable option in the passing game, he's a player opposing defenses will notice and worry about.

But the Bengals-Jets game was just one of seven NFL preseason contests played  over the weekend. Here's what else we learned over the past two nights:

Felix Jones looks ready to carry the load: Marion Barber's off to Chicago, so the Cowboys badly need Jones to take a major step forward in his fourth NFL season. He's only had 10 carries spread over two preseason games, but all indications are that Jones is ready to make that leap.

Against the Chargers on Sunday night, Jones had 56 yards rushing on seven attempts, with a long of 22. It wasn't even so much the stats, though, as how he got there -- Jones jumped into the hole hard when it was there and continued running with authority after being hit.

Both of Jones' expected backups, Tashard Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray, are dealing with injuries, so the onus could fall even harder on Jones once the regular season opens.

Tim Tebow's fading fast in Denver: Tebow threw a total of two passes in the Broncos' 24-10 win over Buffalo Saturday. That number falls well short of starter Kyle Orton's 10-for-13 outing and, more importantly, Brady Quinn's 10-for-16 night.

Orton essentially locked down the Denver starting  job with two solid preseason efforts, but it's also become pretty apparent that Quinn has taken over the backup role. What's that mean for Tebow? Nothing yet -- the Broncos can keep developing him as the No. 3 guy. It's still not a great sign for the second-year QB that he's been outplayed this preseason by Quinn, who didn't exactly bring Pro Bowl credentials with him to Denver.

Seattle's offensive line needs help: Starting left tackle Russell Okung will likely be out of the Seahawks lineup until at least Week 1. But even he might not be able to save Seattle's O-line.

Facing an aggressive Minnesota front in a 20-7 loss Saturday night, the Seahawks'  line was manhandled. If not for Tarvaris Jackson's ability to scramble and get out of trouble, he could have been sacked six or seven times in the two quarters he played -- the Vikings' one sack is about as misleading a stat as you'll get.

And not only was Jackson under duress during his time on the field, but also Seattle's running game stayed stuck in neutral, too. Marshawn Lynch had three carries for two yards, Justin Forsett had seven carries for eight yards, and the Seahawks were stuffed four consecutive times after setting up first-and-goal on the Minnesota 2 late in the first quarter.

The Seahawks had an impressive offseason and improved in a number of areas, but unless the line comes together, it won't matter.

Houston's 3-4 a work in progress: The Texans' first-team offense looks like it's firing on all cylinders already. Houston hung 17 on New Orleans'  first-team defense Saturday night in a 27-14 Texans win with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster looking like they're in midseason form.

Houston's defense, on the other hand, still has a ways to go. That's to be expected, to some extent, with the Texans breaking in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. They did generate four sacks against New Orleans, including one that resulted in a Drew Brees fumble and turnover to stuff the Saints' opening drive.

The Texans' run defense, however, leaves something to be desired. New Orleans didn't break off any long ground plays, but the Saints' running backs found some pretty inviting holes up front early.

So far, Phillips' defense is struggling in that regard, but getting to the QB more  is a trade-off Houston might be willing to make.

Jake Locker takes a step back: The Titans' rookie QB had a stellar first preseason outing, finishing 7-of-10 for 89 yards and a TD. He followed that up with a shaky 8-for-18, one-interception showing Saturday in a 17-16 loss to St. Louis.

Those bumps in the road are to be expected, and Matt Hasselbeck's presence in Tennessee means that Locker can ease himself in a bit. Still, Locker's second effort probably was more indicative of where he is as an NFL-caliber QB right now than his first.

Alex Smith is still Alex Smith: Anyone waiting for the light to go on for Smith in his seventh NFL season should be considered an eternal optimist. There just hasn't been much to indicate that Smith will ever turn the corner, and this preseason falls right in line. During San Francisco's 17-3 win over Oakland, Smith finished 8-for-13 for 126 yards and one interception, with the 49ers' offense scoring three points in his one half of work. Smith can be decent, even pretty good at times, but those displays occur far too infrequently for San Francisco to be considered a major threat with him at the helm.

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