All things considered, a 3-4 start is about as much as you could expect from a rebuilding Jets’ team going with a rookie quarterback.
Sam Darnold is proceeding nicely with his NFL apprenticeship despite some difficult moments, the latest being his three-interception clunker in Sunday’s 37-17 loss to the Vikings at MetLife Stadium. And at least some of that woeful showing can be attributed to injuries at wide receiver, running back and the secondary, as well as Darnold’s admittedly sub-par showing.
But life changes quickly in the NFL, and all that optimism built up after back-to-back home wins following a 1-3 start can easily dissipate if the Jets lose their way as midseason approaches. The players and coaches caution against doom-and-gloom moving forward, with outspoken safety Jamal Adams vowing things would not spin out of control like last year.
And why won’t it happen?
“Because I’m not going to let it happen, that’s why,” Adams said.
If it were only that easy.
But Adams said this will not be a repeat of last year, when the Jets had a virtually identical start. They rallied from an 0-2 start, won three in a row to get to 3-2 and then won only two of their final 11 games to finish 5-11. The circumstances are obviously different now that Darnold has replaced Josh McCown as the starter this season, but this is still a mostly young team that is vulnerable to another collapse.
Especially with their upcoming schedule.
Their next four games: at Chicago, at Miami, home to the Bills before a bye, and then home to the Patriots. If the Jets can go 2-2 in that stretch – their best chances would come against the Dolphins and Bills – then they can at least think about making a late-season run for a potential playoff spot. But even that may be wishful thinking, given how poorly the Jets matched up against a legitimate playoff team like the Vikings.
Adams insists this team is ready to win now, even if the evidence argues against it.
“This team is a great team,” he said. “We have a 53-man roster full of a lot of talent. There’s no waiting-for-next-year rebuild. At the end of the day, this team right here can be special, as long as we continue to work at the little details.”
How good can the Jets be?
“The sky’s the limit,” Adams said.
Love the optimism. How can you not from a team leader who is supposed to look adversity in the eye and not blink. Adams is one of several players who will continue to argue against the notion that the Jets are ready for a fall – and all that comes with it.
But they will need to put together some strong performances in the coming weeks to convince their skeptics that they can be taken seriously. Beating the slumping Broncos and Colts at home is one thing, but getting bullied by the Vikings offered a clear reminder that there is much work to be done.
In the short term, injuries are the most pressing issue. While Todd Bowles wasn’t offering many details after the game or on Monday, the Jets find themselves without tailback Bilal Powell (neck), wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Terrelle Pryor (he was released because of a groin injury), safeties Doug Middleton (pectoral, out for season) and Marcus Maye (thumb), cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (quad) and Buster Skrine (concussion) and center Spencer Long (finger).
That’s a disturbingly long list and one that may need to be at least partially addressed by general manager Mike Maccagnan before next week’s trade deadline. One player Maccagnan won’t get is wide receiver Amari Cooper, who was traded Monday from the Raiders to the Cowboys for a first-round pick.
No excuses from Bowles.
“We just have to execute, it’s really that simple,” he said Monday. “You got to execute every week in this league and you got to win games differently. There are going to be close games and a few plays in a game that will turn the tide. We’ve got to make those plays. We didn’t make them [Sunday].”
Easy to explain, hard to fix.
Welcome to a 3-4 football team. The Jets believe it won’t get worse from here.
Injuries, ineffectiveness and a tougher schedule ahead suggest otherwise.