(CBSNY) — The New York Jets’ season hinged on the development of second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. He showed promise in his rookie year, even as the team stumbled to a 4-12 finish. That plan hasn’t really panned out so far.
The Jets enter Week 9 with a 1-6 record, with their hopes resting on the shoulders of a struggling young quarterback. Their only win came in Week 6 over the Dallas Cowboys. It seemed like a turning point at the time, with Darnold returning from a bout of mononucleosis to light up the Cowboys for 338 yards and two touchdowns. But hope fades fast in Jets nation. Two losses later, including a disastrous 33-0 beatdown at the hands of the New England Patriots, that win now seems like an aberration.
So what’s been the problem with Darnold? According to Boomer Esiason, NFL On CBS analyst and former Jets quarterback, “he has been very unsettled in the pocket. His feet are all over the place and his fundamentals are terrible. What is leading to a lot of these problems are the decisions he is making when he is breaking the pocket and throwing interceptions. He has seven interceptions in the last two games. He was confused on Monday night against the Patriots, no question about that. I think he still was a little spooked against Jacksonville, and that led to a couple of really bad throws and decisions. He has got to calm down in the pocket.”
Adam Gase, indeed the whole Jets team, can help take the pressure off of Darnold. “He has to get Le’Veon Bell involved more, and they have to try to force the run. Jacksonville is forcing the run with Leonard Fournette, and, therefore, they are helping their rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew.” Bell had nine carries for 23 yards and no touchdowns against the Jaguars.
“And they have to give him more solid blocking on pass protection,” Esiason continued, “because five-man protections are not getting it done. Six and seven-man protections, play-action passes, that type of thing, need to get him settled down because right now he is all over the place.”
The Jets’ defense has allowed 30 first-quarter points over the last two weeks. An early deficit can change an offensive game plan, tilting the play balance toward the pass. So getting early stops on defense, thereby not forcing Darnold to pass first, would also relieve some of the pressure.
This week the Jets face the Miami Dolphins, one of the few NFL teams worse than them. The difference, though, is that Miami is trying to be bad. And with a pile of draft picks in 2020, their embarrassment looks to have a future upside. The Jets expected to win now, and because of injuries and poor play, haven’t.
“For the Jets it’s really truly about getting back on the winning side of the ledger here,” according to Esiason. “Especially with their schedule over the next five or six weeks, playing teams they will be able to compete against. And it all starts with Miami.” A healthy Chris Herndon at tight end would certainly help. Some upside can still be salvaged from this season.
The Jets play the Dolphins Sunday @ 1:00 on CBS.