EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets' summer started with a bang -- the signing of Plaxico Burress -- and it ended uneventfully Thursday night at MetLife Stadium, where they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-14, in the annual Backup Bowl.
Their 2-2 record notwithstanding, the Jets can call it a successful preseason, mostly because they didn't suffer any major injuries to their starting lineup. That's no small accomplishment, considering there was no organized training in the offseason due to the lockout.
It was an un-Jets-like preseason because, after the initial roster tumult (namely the shake-up at wide receiver), they got down to business and -- dare we say it? -- stayed relatively quiet. Oh, they still have that unmistakable swagger, which annoys so many, but there seems to be a now-or-never determination in the locker room.
"Everybody knows it's time, it's time to get to that game," linebacker Calvin Pace said afterward, referring to the Super Bowl. "[It's time to] take it that one step further and get to Indianapolis."
The Jets have lost two straight AFC Championship Games, and they know it's going to be hard to make it back a third time. The last team to do it was the Eagles (2001-2003), who lost two straight NFC titles before breaking through -- and losing to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
"The Super Bowl runs 24/7 in our locker room, in the organization, in the building," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We want to be champs. We want to be crowned champs at the end of the year."
Aside from Burress' ballyhooed ankle injury, which became a mini-soap opera, there wasn't anything remotely ... well, controversial. For a change, the local strife was generated by the New York Giants.
Most teams love peace and quiet and anonymity, but the Jets usually thrive when the decibel level is high and when the clouds are darkest. There was one embarrassing incident after another last season, and yet the team maintained its focus, won 11 games and came tantalizingly close to the Super Bowl.
Where's Sal Alosi when you need him?
"I don't think I have any concerns," said Rex Ryan, giving his brief state of the team. "We're always 2-2 in the preseason. Same Old Jets, I guess."
Chances are, it'll get crazier in the coming days, with the Dallas Cowboys coming to town -- a marquee matchup featuring the Brothers Ryan (Rex and Rob, the Cowboys' defensive coordinator) and the patriotic backdrop of the 9/11 anniversary. The unofficial over-under on the first verbal salvo directed at the Cowboys is Monday.
The Jets feel good about themselves heading into Rex Ryan's third year, and with good reason. Mark Sanchez looks like he's ready to take another step in his development. Preseason numbers don't mean much, but he certainly didn't do anything that would make you think he's regressing -- a 61-percent completion rate, three touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 102.8 passer rating.
The starting offense managed only three touchdowns in 5½ quarters, not what you'd expect from a unit that wants to average at least 28 points per game, but it showed signs of improvement in the red zone -- the bugaboo from last season.
If there was a negative, it's that the big three at wide receiver didn't get much of a chance to gel. Burress and Derrick Mason (knee) each missed a game, meaning they and Santonio Holmes played only one game as a trio. Unofficially, they were on the field for only 18 plays together, all last week against the Giants.
That is the biggest question, according to ESPN analyst Jon Gruden.
"My only concern is, can the receiving corps, A, stay healthy, and, B, come together fast enough to propel this passing game to another level?" Gruden said Wednesday on a conference call.
It will take time, which means it makes sense to ride the running game and defense over the early part of the season -- the two hallmarks of the team. The Jets rushed for 24 yards against the Eagles' second- and third-stringers, which created an opportunity for Ryan.
"I'm sure some people in the league will think we can't run the football now," said Ryan, scoffing.
Ryan's bravado notwithstanding, not everything is hunky dory. There is a glaring lack of depth on the offensive line (five sacks by the Eagles), with top backup Rob Turner (broken leg) sidelined for at least a couple of months. The next top backup is Vladimir Ducasse, a bull in a china shop. If he's not surrendering sacks, he's committing penalties -- three Thursday night.
There could be a depth issue at quarterback because backup Mark Brunell, even if his calf injury is healed, is going to be rusty. Rookie Greg McElroy (possible dislocated thumb) is going to be down for a while. It all means Sanchez needs to stay healthy.
"It all starts with Mark," Revis said. "I think he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league."
As Ryan likes to say, the great thing about it is, we're going to find out.