The Monday night stage was just the right size for Leon Washington to display his many skills.
Washington performed exceptionally well for the Jets in the first half of the 24-23 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. Among his best plays, he was the recipient of Mark Sanchez's first touchdown pass as a pro.
"The opportunity matched up," Washington said of the 19-yard touchdown pass that cut the Jets' early deficit to 14-7. "Anytime I get matched up with a linebacker, a safety or a DB, it's to my advantage. Mark made a great throw. The guy went the other way, so I had a touchdown."
Sanchez gave his running back the credit for the Jets' first touchdown of the night, which came more than six minutes into the second quarter after a well orchestrated 11 play, 64 yard drive.
"Leon went on a little wheel route and the defensive lineman ran with him, and he was running with his back to me so he couldn't see the throw," said Sanchez. "So I just put it up and gave Leon a chance and he made a great play just sticking with the ball and sticking inside the linebacker to make a great catch. So it was perfect. It was the first read that we had and it worked out well."
The touchdown was made possible in part because Sanchez found the fourth-year veteran on a third-and-12 screen for 16 yards to the Ravens 35.
Washington's two receptions for 35 yards and a score led all receivers on the Jets. In the second half, WR David Clowney had two catches for 33 yards and a TD.
No. 29 also led the Jets with 48 yards on eight carries, running behind an offensive line without RT Damien Woody, but surprisingly with 12-year veteran G Alan Faneca, who started in his first action of the preseason despite his broken finger.
Faneca made some big holes for Washington, pulling to lead the way on consecutive plays of nine and 10 yards, giving the Jets their first first down of the night more than nine minutes into the opening quarter.
Washington, who led the NFL in combined net yards last season, added a 52-yard kickoff return and finished with 181 yards on rushing, receiving and returns. That total tied Jesse Chatman's yardage at Philadelphia last year for the Jets' most all-purpose yardage in the last 20 preseasons.
Head coach Rex Ryan knew about Washington's ability to stretch a defense, but even he was excited to see what the player did Monday night.
"He's even better than I thought," said Ryan. "This guy is — whoo! — he's a little stud. I knew he was tough but that defense, that doesn't happen to them, I don't care, preseason, regular season. He's special."
Washington wasn't satisfied with his game because the Jets didn't come away with the road victory.
"We want to win," he said. "We're trying to compete, trying to put the team in position to win, so we're just playing hard."
The Jets rushed for 141 yards on 38 carries on the night, with the Jets' four running backs — Thomas Jones, Washington, Shonn Greene and Danny Woodhead — accounting for 126 of the yards on 32 of the carries against the Ravens' stingy run defense.
"We ran the ball for 85 yards in the first half against a team that doesn't happen to very often so I was really proud," Ryan said. "I thought we played physically. You know, we were physical with them, so that was a good thing."