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Jets' Sam Darnold not necessarily the starter next week in Buffalo

Coach Todd Bowles is waiting to evaluate his quarterback after some practices.

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets at

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 25, 2018. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

It’s time for the Jets to play it again, Sam. Isn’t it?

Not so fast, coach Todd Bowles said Monday.

With nothing to play for Sunday, Bowles would not commit to starting rookie quarterback Sam Darnold against the Bills.

“We’ll make that determination on Sunday,” Bowles said in a conference call.

It seems likely that Darnold will start after missing three games with a strained foot. But it speaks to how protective the Jets are with their franchise player that Bowles left open the possibility that Darnold will be deemed not ready to play — and not because of his injury.

Darnold was healthy enough to play in Sunday’s crushing 26-22 loss at Tennessee, a game in which the Jets blew a 16-0 lead to fall to 3-9. But Bowles said he didn’t think the quarterback was up to speed, so he went with Josh McCown.

On Monday, after licking the wounds of the collapse against the Titans, Bowles declined to give Darnold the ball.

He said it “remains to be seen” if Darnold will practice fully Wednesday, the Jets’ first day of work this week.

“I expect him to be out there,” Bowles said. “We’ll evaluate him as he goes out there .  .  . He’ll practice. I’ll just see where he is from an accuracy standpoint, a timing standpoint, a rust standpoint. He’s got to see plays.”

As for the decision not to play Darnold against the Titans, Bowles said: “He had a great number of reps and he was prepared. But you’re not going to come three days as a rookie and be fresh off your reads and not have any rust to go in a ballgame and play on Sunday after you’ve been out for [three] weeks. You need some time to get your timing back and everything else. So we’ll continue to give him reps, and when I think he’s ready, he’ll play.”

The Jets have not scored more than one touchdown in five straight games, so their offensive struggles predate Darnold’s injury. McCown, who gave the team such a spark last season, has not been able to duplicate that success. It leaves the Jets searching for answers.

“It’s everything when you struggle in any area,” Bowles said. “Offensively, you can say we can call better plays, we can say we can play better as players and it’s all of the above and it’s all inclusive and it’s frustrating. It’s not from lack of trying. Everybody’s trying and it just hasn’t happened and it’s extremely frustrating that we can’t get touchdowns instead of field goals.”

According to ESPN.com, the Jets ran nine plays inside the Titans’ 22-yard line and all were pass plays. McCown was 1-for-6 and was sacked twice. There also was a holding penalty. The Jets did not call the number of running back Isaiah Crowell, who had 98 yards on 21 carries.

“You can do that in hindsight, but you’ve got to have the flow of the game,” Bowles said. “We’ve just got to execute whether we run or throw.”

Who will do the throwing won’t begin to get illuminated until Wednesday’s practice and won’t be clear until Sunday, unless Bowles changes his mind on the timetable.

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