As the Jets struggled to find their way through Adam Gase’s offense, the coach’s voice wasn’t the only one speaking up. Receiver Demaryius Thomas kept telling his teammates that things would turn around if they kept working.
Thomas spoke from experience and his words carried some weight. He has been proved right. Helped by a pair of defensive touchdowns, the Jets have scored 34 points in each of their last three games, all wins. They averaged 12 points per game during their 1-7 start.
“I told them just to stick with it,” Thomas said. “My main thing was to stick with it because I’ve been in it, I’ve been a part of it and I’ve witnessed it. It works.”
Thomas, a former long-time Bronco, played for Gase during both seasons in which he was Denver’s offensive coordinator. They were the most productive of Thomas’ career.
He caught 203 passes for 3,049 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2013-14. Denver scored an NFL-record 606 points in 2013.
Thomas, who was acquired from New England after Week 1, is not going to compare the Jets to those Peyton Manning-led Broncos teams. He thinks Sam Darnold can be “special,” though, and he likes where the Jets are headed.
“We were excited [in Denver] in the offseason to get back into it,” Thomas said. “I think it’s going that way. Guys are starting to see things, and things are going to start opening up more. We’re headed on the right path right now.”
The Jets (4-7) will attempt to earn their fourth consecutive win Sunday in Cincinnati, but it took a lot for them to get to this point.
Darnold had mononucleosis, saw ghosts and gave the football to the other team nine times in a three-game stretch. Practice squad quarterback Luke Falk struggled in his two NFL starts. The offensive line badly underperformed.
The Jets scored eight offensive touchdowns in the first eight games. Gase didn’t look like the offensive genius and quarterback guru he was made out to be.
In the last three games, however, Darnold is playing like a franchise quarterback. He has thrown for seven touchdowns and one interception and run for two TDs, and Gase looks as if he knows what he’s doing.
“I think it’s closer to what we want,” Gase said. “When you’re not winning, the little baby steps are irrelevant to everybody else. When you see those little steps and you don’t win, nobody cares.
“Our guys did a good job of focusing on what was important, staying in the moment. They were trying to find a way to get better.”
Consider this: In the last three weeks, the Jets and the Ravens are the only teams that have scored at least 34 points each game. The Jets’ 11 offensive touchdowns in the three games ranks second to Baltimore.
Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator in 2015 and spent three seasons as the Dolphins’ head coach. This is the first time a Gase-coached team has scored at least 30 points in three straight games since 2014.
“If you watched the first five or six games, it was like, ‘Whoa, it’s going to take some time,’ ” Thomas said. “But it turned quick because everybody came to work, everybody wanted to be better and everybody did the extra to be better. That was one of the main things, seeing the guys do extra just to be better because they want to win.”
Thomas doesn’t want to hear that the Jets are feasting on bad teams or that this offensive uptick is because they’re in the easy part of their schedule. He said it all comes from the work they’re putting in and that it will only get better.
“Early in the season, we wish we could have had some of the things that are clicking on right now clicking back then,” Thomas said. “We’re not a bad team at all. It’s just things weren’t going our way. One thing we do is we keep working, we keep building, we keep progressing to be better. It’s paying off. But we want to be better, we want to be better for sure.
“It’ll happen. It’s going to get there. It’s going to get real good. I think we still got more.”