Sam Darnold Isaiah Crowell
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The conservative, weakly-engineered rushing mindset put forth by the New York Jets offense is downright offensive, especially to Sam Darnold.

Robby Sabo

FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—Just when you thought they may have shut you up with solid performances, they go right back to showing regular face. It’s how many currently feel about the New York Jets offensive line.

The unit entered the 2018 NFL season ranked 31-of-32 franchises, per Pro Football Focus. Some understood the unflattering rating while others thought the veteran group deserved to be somewhere in the middle of the pack. After two dominating home victories over the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, consecutively, suddenly, the Jets O-line looked pretty damn powerful.

No more praise. The terrific performance was the exception, not the rule.

The following is an example of a team desperately attempting to run a conservative offense suited for the 1980s rather than today’s aerial show for offensive pass-makers.

After half the season, the Jets rank 21st in the league with a 4.1 yards per carry mark. Forget rushing yards or yards per game. The YPC number is the truest form of rushing efficiency and Todd Bowles’s offensive line leads the NFL’s 21st ranked unit.

Under normal circumstances, this would see the Jets rank somewhere near that same 21st spot in the category of rushing attempts per contest. For instance, the Los Angeles Rams are fifth in YPC at 4.8. Therefore, it makes sense they’re second in the league in rushing attempts with a mark of 31.6.

What doesn’t make sense is the Jets running the ball 27.6 times per game, good enough for 11th in the league, when their actual production is poor (ranked 21st). It simply means Jeremy Bates is running the ball entirely too much while wasting valuable plays more aptly used on young Sam Darnold’s development.

Speaking of No. 14, the kid simply doesn’t receive his fair shake at the position. The Jets 31.2 pass attempts per contest are topped by 24 other teams. How is this possible considering the deficits this team has faced at 3-5?

What it all equates to is an offense looking to force-feed the run entirely too much.

Four weeks ago against the Broncos, the Jets ran the ball for 323 yards with a yards-per-carry mark of 8.5. Can you grasp just how poorly this rushing attack has been during the seven other weeks combined?

One-hundred and eighty-three for 587. That’s 183 rushing attempts for 587 lowly rushing yards for the New York Jets (if the Broncos game is taken out of the equation). That comes in at a whopping 3.2 yards-per-carry, good enough for dead last in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals are currently holding down the worst spot at 3.4.

In fact, the Jets O-line and rushing attack pretty much played the same game a season ago. When taking out the three huge performances on the ground in 2017, the rushing attack was deplorable. The only difference is that John Morton understood when he should cut his losses with the running game while Jeremy Bates never stops. It’s probably why Josh McCown enjoyed a career year and Sam Darnold continues to find himself held back a bit.

Other than the Jacksonville Jaguars loss that saw the Jets rush only 14 times, Bates has hit the mark despite efficiency.

Isaiah Crowell
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Against Detroit, they ran it 36 times for 169, a tremendous output. The rest of the outings have been horrendous.

  • Week 1, @ Detroit: 36 attempts for 169 yards, 4.7 YPC
  • Week 2, Dolphins: 19 attempts for 42 yards, 2.2 YPC
  • Week 3, @ Cleveland: 30 attempts for 107 yards, 3.6 YPC
  • Week 4, @ Jacksonville: 14 attempts for 34 yards, 2.4 YPC
  • Week 5, Broncos: 38 attempts for 323 yards, 8.5 YPC
  • Week 6, Colts: 36 attempts for 106 yards, 3.0 YPC
  • Week 7, Vikings: 24 attempts for 71 yards, 3.0 YPC
  • Week 8, Bears: 24 attempts for 57 yards, 2.4 YPC

Just look at the week-to-week marks. The team only wins when they rush the ball effectively. But at the same time, they’re not giving the passing attack enough rope when the rushing game isn’t working.

The Jets had no business running the ball 24 times in Chicago last Sunday and 24 times the previous week against the Vikings at home. 24 times at a clip of 2.4 is simply forcing your offense to die a slow death in this new league. If the defense could actually shut a team out like the old days and/or some points were put up on the board, conservatism could be the right call.

Rarely is it the right call in today’s league.

Admittedly, what’s tough in this Jets situation is that the O-line is much worse when asked to stand up and pass protect (believe it or not). Currently in the middle of the pack with 17 sacks relented tells no accurate story. Darnold runs for his life incredibly well. Plus, the Jets throw the ball fewer than 24 other clubs.

Still, that can’t be a scapegoat for so many wasted plays.

For Sam Darnold to have enjoyed 40 pass attempts a week ago instead of 29—even if not to win the game—would further help develop the kid. Put him in more challenging spots such as more five-to-seven-step drops and two-minute drills. Show him that, in this league, winning must come even when the rushing attack isn’t there.

Rushing the ball is great. Passing the ball is great. But either is only true if it’s efficient.

It’s about time the New York Jets figure this out pertaining to their boastfully proud yet pretty inefficient rushing attack.

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