Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap, Adam Gase, Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP Photo

Adam Gase’s New York Jets revert to disaster mode, after a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, thanks to a decade of neglect.

Robby Sabo

For much of Sunday afternoon, New York Jets fans were thinking (and, perhaps, saying aloud) two specific things:

  1. I can’t believe this is happening.
  2. I knew this would happen.

The Jets fell defeated to a winless team for the second time this season, this time coming at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The other shoe has officially dropped. The mirage has been lifted.

It’s the familiar story of an entire fanbase. Just when its beloved Gotham (formerly Gang) Green lifts spirits to the highest of heavens, emotions come plummeting down to Earth.

As of late, meaning the better part of the last decade, these woes can be largely attributed to the organization’s inability to put together a competent offensive line and four-man conventional pass rush.

Young Sam Darnold was sacked four times but pressured on nearly every drop back. The very same unit that heaped praise for a miraculous turnaround over the last three weeks turned in as poor a performance as the NFL can showcase.

Rookie Chuma Edoga was out with an MCL sprain. In at right tackle was Brandon Shell. Veteran Brian Winters, also injured, watched as Tom Compton, who performed well the week prior, joined the horrid output.

Oh, and don’t forget about the rushing attack.

During the broadcast, CBS’s Adam Archuleta continued to hammer the point that the Bengals are beastly inside and weak on the edge. He couldn’t understand why the Jets wouldn’t attack the edge. After the game, reporters asked Gase why he didn’t rush the ball more.

Well, it’s pretty simple: the Jets also boast terrible weaknesses on the outside and on the ground as a whole. The team managed just 62 yards on 17 attempts. Le’Veon Bell could muster only 32 yards on 10 carries. The Jets entered the game 31st in the NFL in rush yards per game.

In every spot the Bengals showcased weaknesses, so did the Jets. Cincy can’t protect the quarterback. New York can’t rush the passer. Cincy can’t stop the run. New York can’t run the ball. The Bengals simply outplayed and outmuscled the Jets, and the organization has itself to blame for prior critical missteps.

Year in and year out, season after season, this organization has failed to put together even an average five-man unit. How long has it been?

Two-thousand-and-six marked the last time the franchise selected a big hog in the first round. That year, the Mike Tannebaum-Eric Mangini combo went with two, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.

Is it any coincidence the Jets, equipped with a less-than-stellar skill-position group, shocked the world and qualified for the tournament that season? Is it any coincidence the team soon boasted, arguably, the most talented group of players of any NFL team during Rex Ryan’s two AFC Championship Game runs?

The last second-round offensive line talent that was snagged by this team came in 2010 (Vlad Ducasse). Mike Maccagnan didn’t select a single first or second-round lineman in any of his five drafts.

On Sunday, assignments were blown on every area of the line. And the penalties, oh the penalties, 10 total, were mainly spurred on by the unit’s performance. In the third quarter, a Kelvin Beachum holding penalty in the end zone resulted in a safety.

No team has lost to two winless teams (at least 0-7) in a season in NFL history. The Jets accomplished that feat, via ESPN Stats & Info.

Depressingly, the offensive line is just one-half of the devastating ills. This pass rush is the worst in the NFL.

Jamal Adams and Brian Poole flying in from the edge couldn’t save the team on this day. Adams, extremely emotional after the game, revealed that he didn’t feel like himself due to a foot injury.

“I couldn’t perform,” Adams admitted after the game, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.

It now makes sense why we didn’t see Adams pressuring the opposing quarterback. Gregg Williams knew he had to adjust, yet couldn’t muster any answers for Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense.

Dalton, who was reinserted into the lineup this week, reminded the NFL that he’s a professional pocket-passer. Finishing with 243 yards and a touchdown on 22-of-37 passing, the once-dominant-looking Jets zone defense fell to pieces in Week 13.

Unfortunately, for the defensive backs, they looked like the culprit when all they were trying to do was hold on to each play.

Dalton had all day to throw the ball.

This Bengals offensive line, one that had given up 40 sacks entering the contest, relented one sack and very little else. The protection and communication dominated the Jets’ front four and any attempt of an exotic pressure involving a Jets DB. In addition, Darnold’s weapons couldn’t create an inch of separation.

The head coach deserves blame. Ten back-breaking penalties and what looked like incompetent preparation spurs such criticism on Gase.

Just don’t make the mistake of believing this is an isolated incident. This loss didn’t appear from the Florham Park thin air. This one’s one of the many side effects that pop up thanks to poor infrastructure building.

Sam Darnold looks to avoid the Cincinnati Bengals pass rush.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

To ignore the injection of young offensive line and edge rush talent year after year, season after season, draft after draft, is to place an organization behind the eight-ball inch-by-inch.

Where’s the edge talent?

Don’t think of names such as Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor. This is a league that features young talent ready to roll on day No. 1. The draft remains the bloodline for every NFL franchise.

Knowing this, instead of snagging Josh Allen with the third-overall pick in the 2019 version, Quinnen Williams was the choice. Maccagnan stunningly pulled off a deja vu scenario comparable to 2015 when Leonard Williams was selected with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson already in-house.

Football units are never complete until every one of the 11 positions is worth its own weight. A football unit is only as strong as its weakest link. It’s a notion the organization has failed to grasp for the better part of the last decade. Vernon Gholston represents the organization’s last attempt at securing that stud edge rusher they’ve so desperately needed since John Abraham’s presence.

Offensively, the fanbase cheers at the thought of the franchise quarterback, and while it’s true the NFL quarterback may be the most important position in sports, this isn’t the NBA. No one player can make the difference in this game. No sane individual should ever evaluate Sam Darnold as an NFL quarterback until this offensive line receives the attention it so desperately deserves.

The offensive line and edge neglect over a decade is that bad. It is a football crime of the highest order. Don’t convince yourself otherwise.

Until Joe Douglas swoops in this spring and does the right thing while understanding how football works and football teams are built, the New York Jets will be playing the unfortunate game of catch-up.

On Sunday, playing catch-up against a legitimate NFL quarterback and a hungry Bengals team was just too much to overcome. Forget whether or not Darnold and the offense performed well; they didn’t even have the opportunity.

It’s a familiar story not only because fans always fear the other shoe will drop, but due to the idea anything the Jets do is a direct result of overcoming the area football always starts: the trenches.

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