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Big Blue Verticality Will Test Jets' Pass 'D'


Revis looks to stop the Giants receivers in Week 5.

The Jets defense is in for quite a challenge Sunday when it faces Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants offense at the Meadowlands. Currently ranked 27th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, the Gang Green defense will have its hands full as Manning has an abundance of targets to work with.

Two of Manning's primary targets are very hard to miss, even in a crowd of 20 other supersized professional athletes.

Wide receiver Plaxico Burress (6'5", 232) is one of the premier "big-man" receivers in the game today. Another imposing target, sixth-year tight end Jeremy Shockey (6'5", 251), has always played far larger than advertised.

What separates Burress from the rest of the vertically gifted receivers in the NFL extends well beyond his size. Many tall receivers in this league have come and gone, but Burress is the complete package and has learned to perfect his advantages — making him one of the most imposing offensive players in the game the last seven years.

"He does a nice job going up and timing the ball in the air and using his size, using his leaping ability," head coach Eric Mangini said Wednesday. "Some guys are big but they can't quite time up the jump to go get the football. I think he does a really good job timing up the jump."

The Giants have been efficient in using the eighth-year veteran on all occasions, not just in taking advantage of smaller defensive backs.

"He has been effective against little corners and big corners," Mangini added. "He is equal opportunist that way in terms of his approach to the different corners he's faced."

"He's a deep-threat guy. In the red zone you expect the ball to go to him," rookie cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "He's an all-around receiver. There's nothing else you can say about him. He's got six touchdowns in just a couple of games, so you know they're going to throw him the ball."

Burress has caught 19 passes on the season and six of them have been for touchdowns, at least one in each of the Giants' four games. He also leads the team with 286 receiving yards despite having two games in which he caught only six passes for 56 yards combined.

"He's been a problem since he's been in the league," Mangini said.

One player on the Jets roster can confirm that statement. Defensive back Hank Poteat was teammates with Burress for both of their first three years in the NFL after the Steelers drafted them in 2000. (Burress was taken eighth overall from Michigan State, Poteat 77th overall from Pitt.)

"He was one of the first big receivers that I had to cover who had good speed," said Poteat. "He's a big guy who's very skilled, not just a regular big guy like some who can't run fast and get off the line. I definitely got good workouts playing against him every day in practice."

Since those days in Pittsburgh, Poteat has kept his eye on his old friend and has seen him develop into the dominating target he is today.

"Since then I've seen he's grown even more as a receiver, he's making some of the catches he might not have made before, so you can tell he's been focused over the years and he's concentrating on what little weaknesses he's had," said Poteat, who has played in 15 games for the Jets the last two seasons. "Every year he's gotten better because he's a true professional. I think he's doing a good job and we definitely have a challenge."

But if the Jets want to focus on shutting down Burress, their chances of survival are slim.

"You know he is dangerous and that they are going to send him deep," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "We have to try and control him, but we can't key on him because they have so many other weapons."

Shockey is another weapon teams have to always deal with. Just when defenses assume they have control over the former Miami Hurricane, he blows up for big yardage or a touchdown.

Last time the Jets faced off with the Giants in 2003, Shockey caught eight passes for 86 yards. Although he has yet to find paydirt this season, he has caught seven touchdowns for the Giants in each of the previous two seasons and has 24 in his career.

Unlike the standard NFL tight end, Shockey has the speed and hands to line up in the slot — a place the Jets defense figures to see him often this weekend.

"I know he'll be in the slot," Revis said. "He's a big wide receiver. You could put him up there with Plax with that big frame, that big body. Basically you've got to get physical with him, too, and play him tough."

Another favorable target of Manning's — as well as other Giants quarterbacks the last 12 seasons — is wide receiver Amani Toomer. The Giants' 1996 second-round pick is approaching his 50th career receiving touchdown, and on top of that he has found tremendous success against the Jets.

In their last meeting in '03, Toomer had 127 receiving yards and a touchdown on six catches. That was a downgrade from his previous game against the Green & White, in December 1999, when he hauled in six passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants' 41-28 victory.

"Their ability to stretch the field vertically with a lot of different players, whether it's Burress, Shockey or Toomer, they have that ability," Mangini said. "And there are a lot of big plays on tape."

If Revis, Rhodes and the rest of the Jets secondary can contain these weapons, then they'll have their share of big plays on the game video come Monday.

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