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Key players Sam Darnold and C.J. Mosely getting healthier for struggling Jets

Sam Darnold of the Jets looks on during

Sam Darnold of the Jets looks on during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sep. 8, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Jets are set to go back to work after an early season bye that came at just the right time for them.

When coach Adam Gase’s group returns to practice this week, some important Jets players might return to the field, most notably their quarterback on both sides of the ball.

Sam Darnold could return from his bout with mono. Middle linebacker and defensive play caller C.J. Mosley could come back from a groin injury.

At 0-3 and with glaring issues on both sides of the ball, the Jets could use any help and reinforcements they can get. The season is not over, it only feels like it is if you’re a Jets’ fan.

At least no one is talking about the kicking issues anymore.

Gase and his staff spent the bye watching film, looking at ways to make sure the Jets are executing his offense and playing competitive football. The schedule is tough. The Jets’ first three games out of the bye are at Philadelphia and then home for the Cowboys and Patriots. Those three teams are 8-2 combined.

The schedule softens up later with the Jets playing five games against teams that went into the weekend with 0-3 records. Here are some things the Jets, and their fans, can look forward to after the bye:

Mosley's return and other key defensive players

The Jets probably would have at least one win if Mosley hadn’t left late in the third quarter of the season-opening loss to Buffalo. The Jets were outscored 14-0 after he exited and lost, 17-16. With Mosley, the defense allowed 200 yards and three points in three quarters. The Jets have yielded 926 yards and 67 points in nine quarters without Mosley.

“He’s a mature, calming force for the defense,” assistant coach Frank Bush said. “A guy that’s seen a lot of football, understands the nuances, knows where to be, knows who to get, how to get him and he can also get everybody lined up and point them in the right direction.

“He’s the engine that drives this thing . . . It’s like losing your starting quarterback. He’s the guy that we send the call and he’s the guy that’s going to make the adjustment and he’s going to get us in and out situations. Obviously, we miss him.”

The Jets also hope rookie defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (ankle) returns after two games. Getting outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins (calf) back could be a big boost, too. Jenkins, who left on the first series of the loss to Cleveland in Week 2, is the Jets’ best edge rusher. The team has only five sacks in three games.

“He’s a really good player,” outside linebackers coach Joe Vitt said. “He’s a great teammate. He takes the game seriously. His preparation is impeccable. You miss his leadership on the field. You miss his leadership in the classroom. You miss him in practice. His enthusiasm is contagious.”

Darnold’s return

Darnold has to pass a huge hurdle on Monday. He will undergo tests on his enlarged spleen to see whether it’s good enough for him to play.

The Jets are not going to risk anything with their franchise quarterback. But Gase and Darnold both sounded optimistic that he would return against the Eagles, in all likelihood with some extra padding to protect his spleen from rupturing.

The offense wasn’t great with Darnold, but he engineered their only offensive touchdown drive of the season. It came in the third quarter of the opener when Darnold’s pass to Le’Veon Bell went for a 9-yard score. The two also hooked up for the two-point conversion.

Since that play, the three Jets quarterbacks — Darnold, Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk — have combined to throw for 352 yards and led the team on one field goal drive. The Jets need more than Darnold, but he is the leader of the offense, the one who spent the most time with Gase and the one they’re entrusting to run things.

“It starts with 14,” Gase said. “I know he’s determined to really help get things turned around.”

Changes on the offensive line

You have to figure offensive line coach Frank Pollack worked the most during the bye. His unit needs the most fixing.

Gase and other Jets officials thought they addressed the line when they acquired former Pro Bowl left guard Kelechi Osemele and convinced former All-Pro center Ryan Kalil to come out retirement. It hasn’t worked out well, and that’s being kind.

They’re not the sole reason the Jets' offense has been atrocious, but they’ve played a big part.

The line has allowed 13 sacks, 26 quarterback hits and have contributed to the team's third-and-long woes. The Jets have faced a third-and-10 and longer on 21of 40 third downs. They’ve converted one of those long third downs and just nine overall.

All five members of the line — Kalil, Osemele, Brandon Shell, Kelvin Beachum and Brian Winters — have struggled at times. Gase and Pollack said the Jets would look at making personnel changes on the line.

Jamison Crowder returning to slot receiver

Jamison Crowder missed Darnold in Week 2 and Crowder missed playing his usual position in Week 3.

Crowder played on the outside against New England with former Patriot Braxton Berrios playing the slot. But Gase plans to put Crowder back in the slot, where he is more effective. That means Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) might be ready, or the Jets could turn to Josh Bellamy or new receiver Vyncint Smith. Either way, Crowder is a weapon in the slot and will return there.

He was targeted 17 times in the opener and caught 14 passes for 99 yards. In the two games since, Croder has been thrown to 11 times and caught six passes for 65 yards.

Chris Herndon’s return

Second-year tight end Chris Herndon showed as a rookie he could be a playmaker and that he had good chemistry with Darnold. The Jets are looking forward to the return of Herndon (violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy) from his four-game suspension a week from Sunday.

“Chris is a talented guy,” tight ends coach John Dunn said. “Anytime you can get a talented guy back you’re certainly excited. When he gets back we’ll see where he’s at and we’ll do what we can to utilize his skills.”


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