Sam Darnold could get used to this.
It’s only the preseason, but the Jets’ mostly first-team offense has scored on its opening drive in both games they’ve played. It’s better than the alternative.
“I think starting fast is something we want to get really good at,” Darnold said.
To that end, the Jets have been playing faster. They’ve worked in practice on picking up the tempo and trying to master the no-huddle offense in Adam Gase’s system, and it’s shown thus far.
Darnold has looked comfortable in the hurry-up, making good, quick decisions and mostly accurate throws.
He connected on a 15-yard completion with Quincy Enunwa on his first pass, and a back shoulder throw to Robby Anderson for 21 yards on his next in Thursday’s 22-10 win over the Falcons. Ty Montgomery, the lead back with Gase choosing to hold out Le’Veon Bell again, scored the touchdown on a 1-yard run.
On the drive, Darnold was 3-for-4 for 41 yards, playing behind an offensive line that featured just one of the Jets’ four projected Week 1 starters.
“It’s fun to kind of be in that offense and really keep the defense on their toes,” Darnold said. “I feel like instead of us sitting back and huddling and letting the defense get lined up, they’re kind of scrambling around not really sure where guys are going. Especially because we do a such a good job and coach Gase and [offensive coordinator] Dowell [Loggains] put together such a good plan of mixing up the formations, making sure sometimes that the tight end is mismatched on the linebacker outside by himself and we put the running backs in different spots.
“With Ty and Le’Veon, you can put them out wide and create mismatches that way. There’s so many different things we can do with this offense and then also having it no-huddle puts a different stress on them.”
Many teams are holding out some first-team players and not dialing up exotic blitzes in the preseason – although Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had his unit applying the pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. But there is at least the appearance that the Jets are heading in the right direction with the way Darnold and the offense has played.
“It’s good to see guys doing exactly what we worked on since spring and seeing it come to life on the field against live competition,” Gase said.
The Jets should only become more efficient and even maybe dangerous when they’re whole. It may not be in their third preseason game next Saturday against the Saints, which is a dress rehearsal for Week 1.
The offensive line is banged up, and Gase hasn’t committed to playing Bell against New Orleans. Bell may not see his first game action in more than a year until Week 1 against Buffalo. Bell sat out last season over a contract dispute. Playing the Jets’ big offseason pickup behind an offensive line of mostly second-team players may not be the most prudent thing to do.
“He got a ton of reps this week,” Gase said. “We’ll see how next week goes. He’s played a lot of football. I like where he’s at right now, I love how he’s working. If I feel like there’s a need to play him next week, we will. If he has a good week of practice and we feel like it’s not worth it for him to get him out there, we won’t.”
The condition of the offensive line, which lost right tackle Brandon Shell to a knee injury during warmups, led to Gase playing the first group for only three series. He said he might have played them longer if the offensive line was stronger.
“We normally would go almost the whole first half,” Gase said. “We were trying to be smart and get some guys work. It went as well as I could have asked as far as how it went with the injuries we had.”
More kicker troubles
The Jets could look to add another kicker after Taylor Bertolet went 1-for-3 on extra-point attempts in his preseason debut. Gase said they would watch film to see if the snap and hold were clean, and he would rely on special teams coordinator Brant Boyer to fix that. Bertolet drilled a 49-yard field goal though after his first PAT. “I wanted to bounce back,” Bertolet said. “I think I showed a little bit of resiliency. I got to do a better job of making clean kicks.” Bertolet replaced Chandler Catanzaro, who retired one day after going 1-for-3 on extra points last Thursday versus the Giants.