Their starting quarterback, sidelined the past two games with mononucleosis, hopes to return immediately for the Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Darnold’s plan is to start light running this week, followed by practice next week in preparation for the Eagles. While he claims to be feeling better, he won’t receive clearance from the doctors until his spleen — enlarged because of the illness — returns to its normal size.
Darnold wasn’t permitted to travel to Sunday’s 30-14 loss to the New England Patriots, but his presence was felt in the postgame locker room. With nothing going right on offense, his teammates looked to Darnold’s anticipated return as an elixir. Safety Jamal Adams called it “a new season when we get back,” and the hope is Darnold will be the quarterback when the reboot occurs.
“We have to keep believing in these guys and know they’ll get it right,” defensive end Leonard Williams said of his offensive teammates. “Sam is going to get healthy and come back, and everything will fall into place.”
Asked if the second-year quarterback can save the day, Williams smiled and said, “I hope so.”
The Jets are putting a lot of pressure on Darnold, who still is a developing player, but what else can they do? Luke Falk isn’t the answer, as he struggled mightily in his starting debut. He was drafted 199th overall in 2018, 18 years after Tom Brady was picked in the same spot, but the similarities end there. It wasn’t all his fault, but Falk was overwhelmed in his 98-yard, five-sack performance. It would be deflating for the Jets if coach Adam Gase has to trot out Falk in Philadelphia.
So they turn their desperate eyes to No. 14, hoping Mother Nature runs the hurry-up with his spleen. But it will take more than Darnold to get this offense back to respectability. Mind you, this is an offense that has produced only one touchdown in three games, none in the past two. The offensive line, which didn’t play together in the preseason, looks totally out of sync. It’s one thing to get beat physically, but quite another to blow assignments and leave defenders unblocked. The Jets are doing the latter, and it’s ruining Le’Veon Bell and Robby Anderson, their top playmakers.
“We’re kind of all over the place, so we have to get that fixed,” Gase said of the line.
Falk’s lack of experience contributed to some of the communication issues, but let’s not blame the kid for everything. The line, comprised of five veterans, is underachieving. You have to wonder if it’s struggling to buy into the new scheme.
“It’s not a scheme problem, I can tell you that,” center Ryan Kalil insisted. “The schemes are good, they really are. There’s criticism about being creative, but it’s tough to be creative when it’s second-and-18.”
You can see the frustration on the players’ faces. After the game, Bell, Anderson and running back Ty Montgomery sat motionless at their lockers, still in game garb, staring at their smart phones. Anderson came close to criticizing the offensive line, saying the solution “starts up front and it goes from there.” The last thing Gase needs is a fissure in the foundation. The Jets have reached a vulnerable state, and they need a positive jolt before it gets really ugly.
They need a respite. Check (bye week).
They need Darnold. Check up (visit to the doctor).