If you hadn’t already stuck your foot through the television set by that point, you might have noticed Sam Darnold limping around the field toward the end of the Jets’ 22-6 loss to the previously winless Bengals on Sunday.
Coach Adam Gase said on Monday that Darnold had a knee issue and bruised ribs, but should be good to go when the Jets get back on the field on Sunday at home against Miami.
“He had a knee [issue],” Gase said. “His ribs were kind of bruised up. But everything turned out to be OK. There was just a little concern with the way he was kind of limping around at the end. We just wanted to make sure that he was all right. The ribs kind of came up as well.”
Darnold was unable to get the Jets moving against the Bengals. He finished 28-for-48 for 239 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Darnold was blah, the offense was inept, and any hopes of a Jets miracle run in the second half of the season after a three-game winning streak ended at Paul Brown Stadium.
But at least Darnold says he’s healthy. So the second-year quarterback’s development can continue in the season’s final four games.
“I feel really good physically,” Darnold said. “The knee issue, to me, is really a non-issue. I’ve just got to make sure that I continue to stay on top of it in terms of icing and all that kind of stuff. But other than that, I feel really good. I’ve just got to make sure that I'm doing all the right things to keep my body in check this late in the year.”
In his nine games this season, Darnold has shown promise — and room for improvement. He’s 196-for-311 for 2,154 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Jets are 4-5 with Darnold in the lineup and were 0-3 when he missed weeks 2-4 with a bout of mononucleosis.
“The sickness in the beginning of the year, that just sucked,” Darnold said. “I couldn't really do anything about that. Other than that, I’ve felt great all year. So it's just kind of bad luck in the beginning of the year, but other than that, I've been feeling really good.”
So what can Darnold work on during the final four games? Gase said he saw good signs from Darnold on Sunday on the throws he didn’t make.
“There were some opportunities for them to get the ball out and he did a good job of securing it and making sure that at least we had possession of the ball,” Gase said. “Sometimes punting is a lot better than turning it over. I thought he did that on a couple of the sacks where the ball could have got kind of loose with the amount of guys that were hitting him. He didn't let it happen.”
Gase also said he’d like to see Darnold “make plays with his feet” more than he has so far. Darnold has rushed 22 times for 47 yards with two touchdowns.
“I think there's been times — and we’ve both talked about this — when you’ve got a lane sometimes it might be better just to take the five yards running instead of trying to make that incredible throw that he makes so many times,” Gase said. “Just to keep us ahead of the sticks and instead of taking that chance that it can be an incompletion, now we're stuck second-and-10, third-and-10. I think outside of that he's really improved in a lot of different areas. If we can make one improvement really with him being able to just use his legs a little more and just be consistent with the ball security.”