LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the New York Jets in action...

LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the New York Jets in action against the Washington Redskins. (Aug. 27, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

There's no denying it, even though their doing their best to slap everyone's hands away from pushing the panic button.

Sure, it's only preseason and we may all turn out to laugh at the big deal being made out of the first-team offense's struggles weeks from now. But it's beginning to get to the point where there's a bit of a growing concern regarding their lack of productivity.

Mark Sanchez had a rather nondescript performance, improving on first-half numbers (6 of 12, 74 yards and an INT) by connecting on 7 of 9 attempts in the second half to finish with 139 yards. He caped off his night with a 10-yard touchdown toss to TE Dustin Keller -- against the Redskins' backups.

That TD broke a 10-quarter touchdown drought, giving the Jets' first-team offense just its second touchdown in 18 possessions this preseason. Still, few were ready to start biting their nails in anxiety, wondering exactly what's going wrong with an offense that's supposed to be high-powered.

"I’ve been around football a long time," FB Tony Richardson said. "I remember this time last year we were talking about the running game. Everyone kept saying that we couldn’t run the ball and we wound up leading the league and setting a Jets’ record. It’s not necessarily a concern. We just have to keep working, believe in what our coaches are telling us and working hard."

LaDainian Tomlinson also isn't ready to sound the alarm just yet.

"Well, I think one thing people need to understand is, we have been very vanilla this preseason," he said. "We have run basic plays and I know at times it doesn’t look like we’re doing very good, but these are basic plays we’re running so we’re executing them. We won’t really game plan until the season starts, so we’re doing fine.

"I think we’re going to be fine."

They both make compelling points and there's a part of you that really wants to give the hand wave to this stuff about the first-team not looking all that great. But they can't get a pass on those turnovers, and even Rex Ryan was none too pleased about the way they coughed it up last night.

The Jets had four fumbles -- WR Santonio Holmes, QB Mark Brunell, RB Joe McKnight and WR Jerricho Cotchery -- and lost three. They also had that drive-killing interception by Sanchez when he threw into double coverage looking for Keller on third-and-8 from the Redskins' 13 with just under eight minutes left in the second. 

"We can’t turn the ball over," Ryan said. "We did a lot of good things. I like the way we came out in the second half on offense. That was important to us. I like the way we ran the football. There were some positive things. But, again, if you turn the ball over like that, that much, it gets ugly."

There's nothing ugly about the way Tomlinson is running the ball. He's had a fabulous preseason (and yes, again, we do know it's only preseason), but you can see he has a quick first step and a burst once he hits the hole.

That was evident again on his 43-yard run on the Jets' initial play of their second drive, when they were backed up in the shadows of their own goal line at the 7.

"It was a zone scheme and I cut it back," Tomlinson said. "The line did a great job at pushing everybody by. Once I cut it back, I had the safety coming downhill and I knew he was coming too fast to be able to tackle me once I made a move on him. I made the move on him and kind of hit my receiver a little bit, trying to get behind him. I kept my balance and was able to get up the field for 43 yards."

Tomlinson finished with 86 yards on 11 attempts and RB Shonn Greene was right behind him with 52 yards on 11 carries. Tomlinson has racked up 128 yards on 22 carries in these three preseason games.

Not bad for someone who's supposed to be over the hill.

"He ain't old at all," Greene said. "Man, he's got fresh legs and he still has the speed as you saw today. I'm happy for him. He had a lot of people say he was done, washed up. But clearly that's not the case."

Although the Jets’ first-team defense was stout against the run, their secondary was shaky minus their holdout Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Of the 119 yards the Jets surrendered in the first half against Washington's first-string 'O,'  97 those came via the air. And actually, the Jets were lucky because a couple of passes that should’ve been completed weren’t, like that one potential 35-yard deep pass that Santana Moss dropped after beating Antonio Cromartie on first down with just under two minutes left in the half.

Cromartie, BTW, had a bit of a tough first half, getting flagged for a holding penalty that nullified an interception on the Redskins’ second drive. He was also later called for pass interference.

As a whole, though, the Jets' starting 'D' has yielded only one touchdown to the opposition's first-team offense through its five-plus quarters this preseason. At least that's one thing to be pleased about.

"Well, I’m impressed with our defense," T-Rich said. "Obviously, I haven’t been impressed with the way we’ve been starting on offense. Our job on offense is to score points. We haven’t done a good enough job of that. But when you look at the way our defense and special teams are playing, it’s kind of encouraging."

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