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The Morning After (Preseason Week 2 edition)

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, left,

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, left, talks with Bryan Thomas (99) during the second quarter. (Aug. 21, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

So the offense stunk in last night's 9-3 win over the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. We've driven the point home with a rusty hammer.

But lost in the "pillow fight," as Rex Ryan called it, was the play of the Jets' first-team defense, the money kicks off the right leg of Nick Folk and an improved Joe McKnight.

Defensively, the Jets held Carolina scoreless through their quarter-plus of playing time, holding the Panthers to 62 total yards. Running back D'Angelo Williams had 27 of those yards on the ground.

"I think last week, we might’ve played a little better," linebacker Bart Scott said when I asked him to rate last night's performance to that of Monday's. "We should’ve set the edge a little bit more understanding the type of runner that we had. We got caught peeking a couple of times.

"But in the preseason, you don’t really game plan for people so you have to remind yourself of the types of backs that you are playing, because we thought he was bottled up on the inside a couple of times, and he got himself out."

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Folk canned all three attempts, drilling them home from 43-, 36-, and 49-yards out to provide the Jets with their only points. Looks like they truly have their kicker now.

“Yeah, I think so,” Rex Ryan said. “That’s what we’ve been saying. I know we never believed it that first minicamp. The guy’s been doing great. So no surprise he’s been nailing the ball.”

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McKnight flashed some of that brilliance that makes you realize why the Jets thought he was a steal in the fourth round. However, it also makes you wonder why you don't see that more often from him.

McKnight led the team total offensive yardage, rushing 11 times for a team-high 28 yards. He also had an electrifying 67-yard punt return that almost went for a touchdown.

Don't think McKnight didn't have the end zone on his mind, either.

"I was looking to score, but it didn't work out that way," McKnight said. "The blocking was there at the right time and once I saw the blocking was there, the only thing I had to do was run to them and they’ll take me to the Promised Land.

"I didn't think they were going to catch me. But once I got across the field, I thought I still could take it. I had to cut back, but things happen."

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D'Brickashaw Ferguson has been having a solid camp, but the left tackle from Freeport gave up a sack to Everett Brown on the Jets' second play from scrimmage. Mark Sanchez was pummeled by Brown for an 8-yard loss after he blew in from the left side.

"Yeah, just poor technique on my part," Ferguson said. "But I’ve just got to get back and regroup a little bit and play good ball."

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Sure looks like LaDainian Tomlinson has more left in the tank. (Right JohnZ?).

The future Hall of Fame running back broke off a 20-yard run, tying him with quarterback Kellen Clemens and tight end Jeff Cumberland for the Jets' longest play from scrimmage in their victory. He finished with 26 yards on three carries, increasing his preseason total to 43 yards on 11 rushes.

"I feel good," he said. "I've told you guys all along, when I'm healthy, I can perform at a high level and you guys are seeing that I'm healthy."

Tomlinson, of course, didn't play much in the preseason during the latter part of his tenure in San Diego. He saw action in just one preseason tilt from 2006-08, but he's played in both of the Jets' two preseason contests so far.

He's loving every second, too.

"I'm enjoying it," Tomlinson said. "You can see that I'm having fun and playing with these guys. But I've always wanted to play in preseason. When my guys are out there, I want to be out there with them, you know? Unfortunately, the last few years, the coach just wouldn't let me play.

"But now I'm getting an opportunity to play and I think it helps when the season starts. It helps you be able to hit the ground running. So I'm looking forward to that."

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One final thing about Ropati Pitoitua, the reserve defensive lineman whose season ended with a torn Achilles. First-year defensive line coach Mark Carrier was really looking forward to seeing what he could do.

When I spoke with Carrier during the Jets days in Cortland, he talked about Pitoitua's steady improvement from that of a season ago.

"The thing about Ropati that you don’t realize is for a tall guy, he’s so strong, so powerful,” Carrier said. “And the big thing he’s understanding is hey, 'You play small, you play big. You play tall, you play small.' Basically it means if he’s high, he’s ineffective. He gets moved very easily. If he plays with a lower base, gets good body position, he plays very strong and very big.

"He learning -- a guy who loves football. His pass rushing ability has really gotten better. I’m very pleased with where he’s at with that. He’s working hard in this game because he wants to get into the rotation."

Unfortunately, he won't get a shot at cracking it again this season.

“That’s tough, man. That’s a tough break," Scott said. "That’s the sad thing about the preseason, that’s the sad thing about football in general -- you lose a guy. It's early where maybe we can try to find somebody to take his place. But it’s going to be tough because he was coming along."

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