Sparano: We pushed around Bengals

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Tony Sparano is a fiery, no-nonsense kind of guy, but he wasn't breathing fire about the Jets' shaky offensive performance in the preseason opener. Just the opposite, actually.

The offensive coordinator defended the running game and insisted there weren't as many pass-protection issues as the stat sheet suggested. Asked about the breakdowns, Sparano interjected, "Not breakdowns. There was one protection breakdown."

He was referring to a strip sack of Greg McElroy in the fourth quarter, one of five sacks allowed by the Jets.

The starting offensive line didn't generate much in the running game (Shonn Greene was five for 11 yards), but Sparano seemed pleased. He got a little defensive.

"I realize that it was said out there that we didn't push anybody, but I would urge you to pick a phone up and call the people down there and ask them that question," he said, referring to the Bengals. "There were a lot of people pushed."

Other notes from Sparano:

• RT Austin Howard, whom Rex Ryan lauded earlier in the day, received a 75-percent grade for the game. Sparano said Howard "played with tremendous power," especially when involved in double-team blocks. Asked if Howard could challenge incumbent Wayne Hunter, Sparano said, "There's competition all over the place right now."

• TE Dustin Keller was wide open over the middle on one play, but QB Mark Sanchez couldn't get him the ball because he was under pressure. Sparano said the Bengals "screwed it up somewhere" because they left Keller all alone. Maybe, but the Bengals got away with it because Sanchez was sacked.

• Sparano praised QB Tim Tebow, saying he threw his hot routes well. Said Sparano: "I thought he made some good decisions." Sparano said Tebow probably wishes he had one or two "do-overs" (like the interception), but he said Tebow contributed three "explosion" plays -- three runs of 10-plus yards.

• What impressed Sparano most about Sanchez was his command of the huddle, his rhythm, his timing throws and his protection calls. Sparano said there were no miscommunications between him and Sanchez. That, he said, was the primary objective for the first game.