A few days before the Jets season opened, a reporter asked Sam Darnold what the personality of the 2019 Jets offense would be.
“Electric,” Darnold responded. “It will be fun to watch us and hopefully we are going to put up a lot of points.”
Not quite, Sam.
While the Jets have every right to feel good about their 6-2 finish and optimistic about the future, it is clear what needs to be fixed entering 2020.
The Jets offense finished dead last in the NFL with an average of 273 yards per game. They are at or near the bottom in many other categories. All of this comes after the team hired Adam Gase last year as their head coach in hopes that he could bring the best out of Darnold.
Darnold made progress in Year 2, but Gase’s offense sputtered more often than it hummed. The Jets averaged 17.2 points per game, which was 31st in the league. But that number is inflated by six non-offensive touchdowns. ESPN figured out they scored 14.5 points on offense, which was the worst mark in the league.
“At the beginning of the season, I thought we were inconsistent,” Darnold said. “I think that’s really some of the reason why we lost games at times. I thought I played inconsistent as well. Toward the back half of the season, I thought I played better. I didn’t turn the ball over as much. Again, there’s still room to be more consistent. As a whole, I felt like the back half of the season as an offense we felt more comfortable and played more consistent.”
Sam Darnold and Adam GaseBill Kostroun (2)
There were reasons for the Jets’ offensive struggles. Losing Darnold for three games to mononucleosis stunted the progress of the entire offense in their first year in Gase’s system. The coach had to alter his play-calling completely with third-string quarterback Luke Falk starting against the Patriots and Eagles.
They started with a poor offensive roster, and then there were the injuries. The Jets used 11 starting offensive linemen in nine starting combinations. Second-year tight end Chris Herndon, who was expected to be a major player, appeared in one game. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa did not make it through Week 1.
Much was made of the Bills playing their backups in Sunday’s game, but the Jets were down to third-stringers at both guard spots, tight end and wide receiver.
“I think that we obviously weren’t where we wanted to be at at points in the season,” wide receiver Robby Anderson said. “Losing our quarterback, that’s crucial. A lot of things going on, players in and out on the O-line. It’s hard like that.”
The Jets did play better in the final two months of the season. They scored 34 points in three straight games in November and began to look more fluid as an offense.
“I think we just focus on what we did well the last 8-10 weeks of the season and try to carry that over,” tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “We had some things that we did well. We had some things that we didn’t do well. I thought we were somewhat efficient in the run game when we ran it. We just weren’t able to keep that going consistently throughout the year, to keep that going into the middle of the third and late into the fourth quarter.”
The running game was particularly terrible. The Jets averaged just 78.6 yards per game and never found a rhythm with free agent pickup Le’Veon Bell, who failed to rush for 100 yards in any game this season. Bell did not even have the Jets’ longest rush of the season. Incredibly, that went to Darnold, who had a 24-yard run. Bell’s longest was 19 (he did have a 23-yarder wiped out by penalty).
The Jets need to upgrade the roster, hope they can stay healthier in 2020 and believe that another year in Gase’s system leads to a leap from the basement of the offensive rankings.
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