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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Jets' rash of penalties has plagued them throughout preseason

Jets head coach Todd Bowles looks on from

Jets head coach Todd Bowles looks on from the sideline during the first half at MetLife Stadium on Friday. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Show up to any Jets practice and you’ll see the usual assortment of activities: individual drills, positional drills, 7-on-7 plays, 11-on-11s.

And push-ups.

Lots and lots of push-ups.

The more you see, the worse the practice.

After all, this isn’t a matter of trying to get players’ arms stronger; it’s a punishment for penalties. Every time a yellow flag is thrown, it’s 10 push-ups for each player on whichever side of the ball is guilty of the infraction.

Unfortunately for the Jets, no amount of push-ups can solve their problem. The latest evidence: In Friday night’s 22-16 loss to the Giants, there were multiple penalties on offense, defense and special teams.

Afterward, coach Todd Bowles was asked about the Jets having 12 penalties for more than 100 yards.

“It felt like more than that,” Bowles said.

Actually, there were more than that. The Jets were flagged 13 times for 108 yards, underscoring a persistent problem that must be straightened out if this team is going to improve on last year’s 5-11 record.

“We practice it,” Bowles said. “We practice doing things on it. We can’t have that going into opening day. The penalties were and will be unacceptable going forward. We have two more weeks to clean it up, so we’ll work on it.”

Penalties certainly aren’t the most entertaining storyline for a team that goes into the season likely to start rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. But assuming the former USC star does get the nod — as he should — in the Sept. 10 opener, his performance likely will be impacted by the team’s penchant for penalties.

Having an excellent quarterback can often serve as a deodorant to mask a team’s problems, and Darnold has provided a measure of hope for a team in desperate need of a franchise quarterback. But unless this team cleans up the eminently correctable mistakes associated with all these penalties, it’s going to be an even more treacherous development process for the 21-year-old quarterback.

Darnold himself is willing to take the blame for at least a share of the offense’s woes, and he brought up the subject unsolicited when asked to assess his overall performance against the Giants.

“Just have to cut down on the penalties,” said Darnold, who was 8-for-16 for 86 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. “I blame myself for those. As an offense, we’ve got to be on the same page, and that always comes back to the quarterback. Just [need] more consistency.”

Darnold is being a good teammate by taking the blame for the penalties, because the fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of the calls aren’t his fault. He wasn’t the one who committed a false start on the opening drive; that was tight end Eric Tomlinson. He wasn’t called for an illegal hands to the face on what would have been an Eli Manning incompletion on third-and-15 from midfield in the second quarter; that was linebacker Jordan Jenkins.

Darnold did take the blame for an intentional grounding call on second-and-9 from his own 18 in the first quarter, which pushed the Jets back to their own 9 and led to Lachlan Edwards’ punt from the end zone.

“Obviously, you can’t throw the ball away from the pocket,” Bowles said. “If you do, you get the penalty. But for the most part, he did his job.”

Darnold already has shown he can process mistakes and then eliminate them when given another chance. He is sure to commit more penalties in his progression as a young quarterback, but he’s the least of Bowles’ problems. This has been a team-wide epidemic throughout the preseason, and Bowles needs to correct it ASAP.

“To be a good football team, you can’t beat yourself,” said quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who likely will start the season as a backup to Darnold. “It starts with the penalties, so those are some of the things that we can correct. As a team, we have to continue to hold each other accountable.”

Penalties were a recurring problem last season, as the Jets were 28th in the NFL with an average of 7.4 penalties per game. That was a significant increase from the year before (5.8), a reflection of Bowles’ decision to go with a younger team in a rebuilding phase. Mistakes are to be expected when you go away from veterans, but this is the time when coaching matters most.

Bowles needs to make certain his team cuts down on the self-inflicted wounds the penalties create, and he must come up with a way to better address the issue. He has made it a point of emphasis during practice, video sessions and team meetings, but it’s still not getting through to his players.

With the regular-season opener just a little over two weeks away, this much is clear: Push-ups aren’t working.

New York Sports