This is the time of year when the offense should be finding a rhythm, the defense is seeing things before they happen and the entire team is building a consistent identity. Think Patriots, Saints and Chiefs and you get the gist of what Week 6 in the NFL should feel like.
Instead, the Jets are still searching for answers as they face the Cowboys Sunday at MetLife Stadium. After a brutal 0-4 start, the return of quarterback Sam Darnold gives head coach Adam Gase a chance to figure out his offense and prove he’s worthy of being the Jets head coach. It won’t be easy.
Remember Gase was brought here for his offensive genius. Not because he was a great motivator or a personnel guy or somebody who could get the most out of every player on the roster. He was brought here to develop Darnold into a franchise quarterback and build an offense that would be feared in the NFL. So far he’s generated only snickers and sympathy. That has to change beginning Sunday.
“We’re trying to figure out how we get in some kind of rhythm,” Gase said this week. “How do we make positive plays? How do we convert on third down? That’s what we’re trying to make strides on offense.”
The Jets should have that figured out by now. But Darnold missed three games with mono and the offensive line had to be revamped. It hasn’t helped that Quincy Enunwa was lost for the season to a neck injury and tight end Chris Herndon was suspended for the first four games and now has a hamstring injury. Now Gase has his quarterback back, and it’s time for him to show us why the Jets hired him in the first place. It starts Sunday against the Cowboys.
There is nowhere to go but up. The Jets are last in the league in total offense, averaging just 179.5 yards per game. They also rank last in the league in yards per play (3.2), net passing yards per play (7.6), first downs per game (11.2) and third-down efficiency (21.1 percent).
Much of that can be attributed to Darnold being out, backup quarterback Trevor Siemian injuring his ankle in the second game and third-stringer Luke Falk having to make his first and second career starts against the Patriots and Eagles. Now Darnold is back and Gase must make the Jets at least competitive again.
Sometimes you wonder if there has been any progress this season. The Jets have depended heavily on Le’Veon Bell, who has 71 carries for 206 yards (2.9 average) and also leads in receptions with 27 for 166. He needs help, and it’s up to Gase to figure out a way to get other players involved.
“Probably the hardest thing for us is trying to figure out the right way to use Le’Veon; the right way to use Ty [Montgomery]; the right way to use Bilal [Powell],” Gase said. “It has not been easy.”
It’s admirable Gase has taken accountability for the Jets offensive ineptness, saying he has to call better plays. Yet, he is resistant to blame a lack of preparation for the Jets’ last three games because a third-string quarterback was being used.
Here’s what Gase needs to do: 1). Settle on an offensive line for which we’ve always been told stability and chemistry are important. 2). Involve wide receiver Robby Anderson. He should be one of the best deep threats in the league. He isn’t. 3). Utilize Jamison Crowder and Montgomery more. Gase has said defenses adjust by bringing in a fifth defensive back once Montgomery or Powell are in the game, making it difficult to predict what the defense will do. Figure it out.
The head coach has made it clear the Jets defense is playing well enough to win.
“I like that they come out there with the right energy, the right attitude, [the right] preparation,” Gase said, adding, “We talked about playing the first quarter and the fourth quarter exactly the same. I feel like those guys have done that. I feel like special teams has done that. That’s what we are trying to get done on offense.”
Get it done then.