All the negativity that’s swirling around the Jets is focused squarely on coach Adam Gase. But the Sam Darnold watch is on, too.
Darnold is coming off one of the worst games of his career, and questions about whether he’s a franchise quarterback are coming more frequently.
A win Thursday night at MetLife Stadium against the Broncos would take some heat off Gase. Darnold could help himself, his coach and his team with a bounce-back performance against this QB-friendly Denver defense.
Both teams are 0-3, and, if possible, the Broncos are more banged up than the Jets. They’re also starting third-string quarterback Brett Rypien. Yet the Jets are not even favored at home. That’s how bad they have been.
But Denver could be the right team at the right time for the Jets. It will depend on which Darnold shows up.
The third-year quarterback has made some brilliant plays. But he threw three interceptions in Sunday’s 29-point loss to the Colts. Two were pick-6s and the other was intercepted in the end zone, killing a potential scoring drive for the NFL’s lowest-scoring team.
Darnold watched video and realized the last two picks were throws he just shouldn’t have made, and he was extremely upset with himself.
"I love the fact that he’s such a competitor," Gase said. "He wants to go out there, and he wants to do everything he can to help. At 23 years old, sometimes it’s a tough lesson of learning how far you can take it and here’s when you have to be smart."
Darnold’s numbers are not good for his career or this season. He’s 11-18 as a starting quarterback and has thrown 39 touchdown passes and 32 interceptions. Last week was his fifth game of at least three picks.
This season, Darnold’s 562 passing yards are the second fewest for quarterbacks who started three games. His 9.5 yards per completion also are the second lowest. His 70.7 passer rating is the third lowest among starters, and his four interceptions are the fourth most.
"Having any interceptions is unacceptable," Darnold said.
Darnold is not the reason the Jets have been outscored by 57 points this season. The defense has been a major disappointment as well. But the offense has been dreadful. The Jets have scored four touchdowns all season and just one in each of the last two games.
They have been without their two best offensive players the last two games: Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder. Deep threat Breshad Perriman also missed last week’s game.
Bell (hamstring) and Perriman (ankle) won’t play Thursday. But Crowder (hamstring) expects to return, and could provide a needed spark. Bell and Denzel Mims (hamstring) are eligible to come off IR next week.
Darnold – and Gase for that matter – may not be fully judged or evaluated until the Jets are at full strength. But this could turn out to be a feel-good or get-right game for Darnold and the offense.
Denver is without pass rusher Von Miller, defensive end Jurell Casey and cornerback A.J. Bouye. The Broncos don’t apply much pressure on the quarterback. They have just four sacks. Denver’s 'D' also has given up the fourth-most passing yards and has just one interception
"We have a really good group, a resilient group," Darnold said. "The first three games haven’t gone the way that we envisioned. We’re looking forward to having a really good game against Denver and looking to get a win."
Resilient is the key word, especially for Darnold. He is 1-3 following games in which he’s thrown at least three picks.
"For me, every situation is different," Darnold said. "I’m really just focused on living in the moment right now. We’ve had a rough stretch here with these three games not going the way we wanted them to. I’m just focused on what Denver’s defense is doing, coverage wise, pressure wise, all that stuff.
"I’m just making sure I’m good there and focused on our game plan."