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Jets' offense struggles to move the ball against Saints

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold runs to the sideline

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold runs to the sideline after failing to convert on third down against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game at MetLife Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Jets were hit with a little bit of a reality check, as they showed they’re still working out some of the kinks in Adam Gase’s offense.

After scoring opening-drive touchdowns in their first two preseason games, the Jets turned it over on their first series Saturday night on a Ty Montgomery fumble. They didn’t really move the football until their fifth series, which came against the Saints’ second-team defense.

Sam Darnold was impressive on that drive, nonetheless.

Darnold felt the pressure coming on third-and-5 and connected with Robby Anderson for a 41-yard gain. Five plays later, Darnold floated a pass to Ty Montgomery for a 2-yard touchdown in the Jets’ 28-13 loss to New Orleans Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.

“Offensively we were not very good,” Gase said. “We struggled especially early. After the fumble we lost our minds a little bit. We regained some composure and had a good drive.”

That was Darnold’s last throw of the night, and it came with 8:22 left in the first half. Initially, Gase said he would play his starters for roughly a half, but that changed quickly.

“We came out earlier than we wanted,” Gase said. “We wanted to play the whole first half. I just felt that after we scored that touchdown it was the right time. Finish that group on a good note and kind of regroup.”

On the series before the touchdown, Darnold took a hard hit from his blindside from Trey Hendrickson after releasing a pass that went incomplete. Hendrickson came in untouched and drilled Darnold, who limped a little when he walked off following the three-and-out.

Gase said he “was coming close” to taking Darnold out there. But he looked fine on the scoring drive.

Darnold was 3-for-3 for 51 yards. He finished 8-for-13 for 97 yards and a touchdown. Darnold is not expected to play in the Jets preseason finale Thursday night against the Eagles. He’s gone 17-for-25 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason.

You can certainly make a case that Darnold should not have been out there for that last series. Most of the Jets’ starting defense was out of the game at that point.

Drew Brees only played one series for the Saints, and was sharp as usual. He went 4-for-6 for 68 yards and a touchdown. Brees is 18 years older than Darnold and isn’t learning a new system. But if Darnold would have been hurt, Gase would have been heavily criticized, especially since the franchise quarterback is playing behind an offensive line without three projected starters.

The Jets lost starting linebacker Avery Williamson for the season after he suffered a torn ACL in last Thursday’s preseason game at Atlanta. Gase fell on the sword and took the blame for Williamson still being in the game late in the first half with mostly the second-team defense.

The Saints had no trouble scoring on the Jets’ first-team defense. But they’re a high-powered offense that scores against every team. Brees completed a 25-yard pass to Alvin Kamara, a 20-yarder to Michael Thomas, and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Thomas to cap that first drive.

Kicker Taylor Bertolet, who missed two extra points last week, helped his chances of making the team. Bertolet made field goals of 48 and 56 yards and made an extra-point attempt.

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