The New York Jets great hope, Sam Darnold, has returned from his bought with mono; but don’t expect that to fix everything.
The New York Jets offense has been flat-out awful this year. They have just two touchdowns in five games this year. To put that into perspective, Tom Brady had two rushing TD on Thursday. A 42-year-old quarterback who was never known for his rushing ability has as many rushing TD as the Jets offense has this year. That’s insane and it’s unacceptable no matter who the QB is.
A lot has been made of the fact that Darnold has been out the past four games with mono. However, losing their starting QB hasn’t hurt the Steelers, Panthers, Jaguars, Saints or Bears. At least, nowhere near the degree it’s hurt the Jets.
For the record, the Jets are 31st in offensive DVOA (only the Dolphins are worse). The Steelers are 25th, the Panthers are 21st, the Jaguars are seventh, the Saints are 14th and the Bears are 26th. The catch with the Steelers and Bears is that it’s not their passing offense that’s dragging them down. The Bears are 19th in pass offense DVOA and the Steelers are 23rd.
It’s a wonder how all of those teams have managed to put a competent offense on the field with a backup QB starting games. Those teams are also a combined 9-5 in games started by backup QBs. The Panthers and Saints are unbeaten with their backups in. The Jets meanwhile, have had just one offensive TD without Darnold in at QB.
Now I know many fans will say, but Gase is on his third-string QB. Luke Falk was never supposed to play this year.
My response is, “So what?” A good head coach has to be prepared for every situation and put his players in the best position to succeed.
He didn’t do that with Falk, just like he didn’t do it with Trevor Siemian before him. Remember Siemian, Sam Darnold’s backup, who started the game against the Browns? Remember how he went 3-for-6 for three yards in three-and-a-half drives?
Gase hasn’t put any of his QBs in a position to succeed this year. That was never more clear than his handling of the QB situation leading up to the Eagles game last week. Gase knew that Darnold was a question mark and might not play on Sunday, everybody did. So what was his response? To give Darnold all of the reps with the first-team offense. So it should come as no surprise that Falk struggled on Sunday when he wasn’t given any practice time the past two weeks.
That’s not the worst of it, though. No, Gase’s play-calling takes the cake for the No. 1 reason the Jets offense has sputtered this year.
Le’Veon Bell averages more touches per game than any other player in the NFL. At halftime of the Eagles game last Sunday, Bell had 17 touches, and the rest of the team combined had two. That’s unacceptable under any circumstance.
That’s not new either, against the Patriots Bell had 22 touches and the rest of the Jets offense had 10. Against the Browns, Bell had 31 and the rest of the offense had 16 touches. In the three games without Darnold Bell has had 75 touches, while the rest of the offense combined has had 38 touches. That means in the past three games Bell has gotten the ball on 66.4% of plays with a positive or negative gain. That’s insanity, and it’s not that big of a surprise after what happened in Week 1.
With Darnold in at QB, Bell had 24 touches, while the rest of the offense had 26 touches. That’s more balanced, right? Is that what you’re looking for? Well, those numbers are skewed because of Jamison Crowder. Crowder had 14 receptions in Week 1. That means that Bell and Crowder combined had 38 touches, while the rest of the offense had 12.
Gase has his favorites and gives them the ball. He’s schemed his offense around one player the last three weeks, and around two players in week one. There is no reason to believe that now that Darnold is back that Robby Anderson is going to see the ball again. He’s been the odd-man-out in all of this.
It’s a shame too because he is this offense’s lightning rod. Again though, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Gase has done the opposite of going vertical this year. Instead, he has the highest percentage of throws behind the line of scrimmage. Over 40% of the Jets throws this year have been behind the line of scrimmage.
On top of that, Gase has run the ball on first down over 60% if the time. No team has faced more third and eight and longer’s than the Jets have this year. That contributes to a league-worst third-down percentage, at just 21.05%. The Jets have gone three-and-out on 42% of drives this year. Nearly half of their drives have ended without a first down.
That’s on Gase and his ability to scheme, not the inability of the offense. Not even the Dolphins and Redskins approach those kinds of numbers.
Make no mistake about it Sam Darnold coming back from Mono will help the Jets offense. They should look better than they have these past three weeks. However, Darnold isn’t going to magically fix the Jets offense.
Darnold isn’t going to fix the fact the Jets gave up 10 sacks last Sunday. He won’t fix Bell’s record-setting inefficiency. He won’t fix the fact that Christian McCaffery has more yards than the Jets offense this year.
Hopefully, the playbook opens up and Darnold is able to find some level of consistency on Sunday. Hopefully, he is able to get the offense rolling, but don’t bet on it. The problems run deeper than Darnold alone can fix. It doesn’t help that the Cowboys defense has been excellent this year against everyone not named Aaron Rodgers.
The one thing that Darnold will provide that Falk and Siemian lacked completely was pocket awareness. Darnold will not be taking coverage sacks, nor will he have the ball stripped on sacks. Those are things Darnold just doesn’t do often he second in the league last year in sack fumbles amongst QBs. Darnold was only strip-sacked once in his rookie year (against the Patriots in Week 17). Only Phillip Rivers had more snaps with just one fumble.
That pocket awareness will help keep plays alive and should help the Jets offense avoid three and outs, but putting points on the board that a different story. Against the Bills, the Jets had just two three and outs in 11 drives; however, that only turned into eight points.
Adam Gase has a lot of work to do if he’s going to get this Jets’ offense off the ground. Getting Sam Darnold back is a start, but it doesn’t fix any of the real issues plaguing this team.