Jamison Crowder doesn’t have any one specific reason why he and Sam Darnold have connected so quickly or built chemistry in such a short period of time. But Crowder likes where this relationship is going.
The Jets slot receiver has only played two games with Darnold, and he’s put up some impressive numbers. Crowder caught 14 passes for 99 yards in his Jets debut Sept. 8 and had six receptions for 98 yards last Sunday in the team's first victory of the season.
Crowder, 26, believes there are many big games in his future now that Darnold is healthy and playing again.
“I think of it like that,” Crowder said. “As we continue to play alongside each other and just build that chemistry and just communicate with each other, the connection and the chemistry can get better.
“I guess the two games playing with him is a good start. We got to find a way to continue to build upon that. We got a good foundation and we got to continue to build.”
It’s fair to say that Crowder was one of the players who missed Darnold the most when the quarterback was out three games because of mono.
The 5-9 Crowder caught eight passes for 75 yards when Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk ran the offense. Crowder, who played one of those games on the outside instead of the slot, was targeted 14 times total — three fewer than he was in Week 1
“I think it was difficult for everybody,” Crowder said. “Not only myself, but it was difficult for everybody. Things just flow better when Sam’s back there. When he’s there, he brings confidence to every aspect of the offense.”
That should help the Jets this week with the Patriots' No. 1-ranked defense visiting MetLife Stadium on Monday night.
The Jets showed more diversity last week against Dallas than they had all season. Darnold targeted eight different receivers and the offense didn’t rely on Le’Veon Bell for everything.
With the Jets wanting to establish a run game, Bell will get his touches going forward. Crowder will too.
The Jets signed Crowder away from Washington and gave him a three-year, $28.5-million contract to fill a very important role in coach Adam Gase’s system.
The slot receiver has been targeted plenty over the years in Gase’s offense. First Wes Welker in Denver and then Jarvis Landry in Miami. Crowder, who was targeted six times per game in four seasons with the Redskins, said that’s what drew him to the Jets.
Gase isn’t calling Crowder’s number every time. But Crowder is making himself readily available for Darnold, especially when plays break down. Bell was expected to be Darnold’s security blanket, but Crowder is proving he is too.
And he could have another high-target game this week.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is known for taking away a team’s best players or big playmakers. He could focus on Bell and Robby Anderson. The Jets' deep threat had a 92-yard touchdown catch-and-run last week, and likely will be blanketed by Stephon Gilmore.
The Darnold-Crowder relationship could take its next step on Monday.
“Him and Sam have great chemistry,” Gase said. “Before the Dallas game [Crowder] was communicating a lot, talking to guys, going through things, asking more questions. He was doing a good job of leading by example of how you need to be a pro, how you get things fixed. And it was good, with Sam getting back, some of those broken plays, those two guys hook up. He seems to be at the right place at the right time.”
“He always does a good job of getting open,” Darnold said. “Jamison is just a baller out there. When the play breaks down, I can count on him finding the right spot.”
Crowder said it “was crazy” when he was targeted 17 times against the Bills. The Duke product had never been targeted that many times in his four years with the Redskins. Crowder just wants to be someone that Darnold and the Jets can rely on when needed.
“I’m just trying to be a valuable option for him,” Crowder said. “It’s very important. I just want to go out there and fulfill my role, whether it’s moving the sticks on third down, catching short passes and picking up yardage. I just want to fulfill my role and I try to focus and lock in and take advantage of the opportunity that I get.”
The Jets are excited about what this offense can become when it’s at full strength, which it hasn’t been all season. Illnesses, injuries and suspensions have forced some shuffling at quarterback, receiver, tight end and on the line.
Tight end Chris Herndon, who Gase considers a vertical threat, hasn’t played yet. He served a four-game suspension and suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him out of his second game this week.
But he’s close to returning, and Darnold believes the offense will be “unstoppable” when Herndon does. Crowder does too.
“We can be pretty tough when everybody is back,” Crowder said. “We got weapons across the board. If we go out there and execute really well, I think we can present challenges for the defenses.
“I’ll be glad when Chris can get right, come out there and help us out. That’s going to help me and other guys be able to go out there and display their talents. I think we can be a dangerous offense.”