New York Jets: The true culprit of the Sam Darnold era was…

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Adam Gase is far from innocent, but he’s not the primary reason why the New York Jets’ Sam Darnold era didn’t work out.

There’s no use in crying about the past, especially when the prior affairs are only three weeks old. But social media’s stranglehold on society and the NFL stretching its news cycle from eight hours on Sunday to 365 days a year have seemingly done away with rationality.

If invitations to Canton were granted through 280 characters or less, for example, the construction of Sam Darnold’s bust would not only be underway but his 2021 season might have its own wing. It’s easy to see why Darnold’s modern endeavors have earned their share of headlines: he’s the quarterback of one of five undefeated NFL teams and his redemption story is compounded by the fact his former employers, the New York Jets, serve as a running gag amongst professional and amateur football comedians alike.

The Jets’ reunion with Darnold was crossed off of their bucket list on kickoff weekend. It’s way too early to fully grade the trade that sent Darnold to Charlotte, especially considering two of the metropolitan spoils garnered (second and fifth-round picks next spring) don’t even have names yet. Realistically, the Jets shouldn’t worry about Darnold again until 2025, the next scheduled meeting between Gang Green and Carolina.

Yet, the omnipotent nature of modern NFL football doesn’t allow the Jets a moment’s peace (Carolina’s nationally televised win over Houston on Thursday hasn’t helped stop the spread). The fact that Darnold is playing an active role in the Panthers’ success…he’s responsible for six of Carolina’s eight touchdowns while the Jets have scored two over their first three games under Zach Wilson’s offensive watch…is placing only a bigger spotlight on both Gang Green’s past, present, and future blueprints.

As their team continues to sputter sans Sam, Jets fans have sought a main villain, a living, breathing entity whom they can blame for their predicaments. Former head coach Adam Gase has been the primary target as Darnold joins a list of breakthrough stars that have flourished upon his departure (joining names like Ryan Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, and Laremy Tunsil).

Such fingering is misdirected.

The Jets’ modern struggles obviously do not fully exonerate Gase. Surely the post-Gase success list (which has also welcomed the fortunes of Gase’s collegiate and professional teams) isn’t a matter of coincidence and, traumatizing as this season has been so far, his weekly denials that he was fighting with the faces of the franchise haven’t been missed. Besides, the obvious suspect, as so many other murder mysteries have proven before, is more often than not the one who did the deed.

Gase will require some extra supervision when he inevitably gets yet another NFL job (because the modern NFL loves, if anything, coaching retreads), but he’s shielding the real culprit: it was ex-general manager Mike Maccagnan, in the front office, with a misguided sense of roster management.

 Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The jury is still out on Maccagnan’s successor Joe Douglas, especially with the poor early returns of the Wilson/Robert Saleh era. But one thing Saleh knew what Maccagnan was doing wasn’t working: as of Sunday’s Week 3 contest (a garish 26-0 loss in Denver), only three players from Maccagnan’s last contest as the metropolitan decision-maker (Foley Fatukasi, Marcus Maye, Nathan Shepherd) remain on the modern roster. Half of Maccagnan’s ill-fated final class (in the ensuing 2019 draft) is already gone.

Douglas’ pruge of the Maccagnan is a microcosm of what Darnold had to deal with. The Maccagnan era was one of negligence and ill-advised splashes, one that tried to cover inefficiencies at the supposedly “boring” positions with high-profile signings.

From the get-go, Darold was mostly left to fend for himself. Maccagnan’s strategy seemed to be an incomplete cause-and-effect chart whose profits and yields relied on Darnold becoming an MVP candidate. The offensive cabinets assembled by Maccagnan consisted of the aforementioned big-ticket free agents equally saddled with big baggage (Le’Veon Bell) and that was just the beginning of the team’s issues.

In his all-too-brief time as the Jets’ thrower, Darnold was also stuck with first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman), former stars past their prime (Demaryius Thomas, Frank Gore), flash-in-the-pan breakthrough candidates that wilted under a brighter spotlight (Chris Herndon, Quincy Enunwa), and undeveloped projects that either didn’t work out (Terrelle Pryor, Jermaine Kearse) or remain a work in progress (Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims).

All the while, Maccagnan almost completely ignored construction of the wall in front of Darnold. Save for some desperate moves late in his tenure…the ill-fated trade for Kelechi Osemele and drafting Chuma Edoga in the third round of his final draft…Maccagnan opted to go with blockers made of inconsistent one-year failed fixes. Darnold, for example, worked with three different primary centers (Spencer Long, Jonotthan Harrison, and Connor McGovern), an inconsistency set forth by Maccagnan’s failure to find a long-term solution.

It was a stark departure from predecessor Mike Tannenbaum’s finest hours: during his first draft in 2006, Tannenbaum chose Virginia tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, passing (pun intended) on touted quarterback prospects like Vince Young and Jay Cutler. When they had a chance to take touted collegiate, skill player heroes like Joseph Addai, Sinorice Moss, and LenDale White, they instead opted to bring in Nick Mangold. Not only did those two blockers headline the closest things the Jets have had to recent glory days, but they also became two of the most beloved figures in franchise history. Tannenbaum surrounded his homegrown talents with accomplished veteran strengths like Alan Faneca and Damien Woody. Carolina had already restocked its blocking cupboard with Taylor Moton and Matt Paradis.

Compare that to what Darnold has to work with in Carolina: the Panthers found a way to unite him with Robby Anderson, one of the few things that were working with him in New York. Anderson was one of two four-digit yardage receivers Darnold now has to throw to, the other being DJ Moore. Of course, no one in Jets circles needs to be reminded about the impact Christian McCaffrey can have, as the returning running back served as the 187-yard difference in Carolina’s 19-14 triumph on opening weekend. Carolina’s defense has also come up huge; through a majority of Week 3 action, the Panthers are the only team in the league that has let up less than 200 yards a game (191).

Rather than the hapless Gase, Darnold is also working with accomplished offensive minds Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. The former is all too familiar with raising lost causes from the football abyss, taking downtrodden college programs at Temple and Baylor to unprecedented new heights.

Carolina is in the midst of working with a new general manager, having brought in former Seattle scouting expert Scott Fitterer last winter. Adding Darnold is by far his most impactful move to date, a trade that open a new chapter in the book of the Panthers, one that officially allowed them to move on from the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera glory days.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few months into the job, Fitterer has done more Darnold than Maccagnan ever did.

Darnold is no longer being relied upon to be the sole source of offensive sparks. Many of those pieces arrived before Fitterer, but also spent valuable offseason funds on the aforementioned defense: former Temple linebacker was reunited with Rhule and now leads the team in sacks (4.5). They used their first pick on South Carolina shutdown corner Jaycee Horn (though he’s set to miss some time due to a non-contact foot injury). The Panthers are only poised to upgrade further after Week 3’s events: according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, they’re close to picking up former Jacksonville cornerback C.J. Henderson for tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round choice…a move the Jets, frankly, should’ve investigated further into.

Simply put, Fitterer appears to know the impact of surrounding a franchise quarterback with reliable help on all sides of the ball…a lesson the Jets are learning the hard way. Douglas at least appears to understand that on paper, having added accomplished veterans and using expanded draft capital on assistance in protection. There’s plenty of time to develop past the Darnold era and get things back on track. It doesn’t diminish, however, the progress Carolina has made with the former green thrower.

There’s no use in looking back on the Darnold era, at least not at this point on the NFL timeline, but that’s not the nature of modern football. If a (premature) culprit must be found, the Jets must start at the top. Blaming Gase is popular…but putting on Maccagnan is may be right for now.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Alex Lewis In, Kelechi Osemele Out

New York Jets

The New York Jets offensive line has been really really bad this season. They are currently one of the worst offensive line units in football. Mike Maccaganan and his draft pick, trades and signings being there normal amazing moves have failed miserably throughout the early part of the season. However, one of Joe Douglas’s best moves has truly proven to be excellent.

Alex Lewis Has Broken Out

When Lewis was acquired from the Jets I said I had semi-high hopes for him. He had always been a sort of rotational offensive linemen. He’s always been a damn good one though. Since coming from Baltimore, Lewis was on the bench for the start of the season. However, when Adam Gase instituted an open competition for all offensive line positions Alex Lewis and Chuma Edoga were able to get starting spots. Since then, Lewis has been the most reliable offensive lineman. Edoga has been good, Lewis has been great. For the minimal price the Jets got him for, this was a damn good movie. Especially in the wake of another turn of events.

Kelechi Osemele Situation Is Messy

Osemele went down with a shoulder injury and although he has missed time it wasn’t thought to be severe. However, after getting cleared by two doctors he personally felt surgery is a necessity. So, the Jets and Osemele were in a standoff. The Jets made the first move by fining him for skipping practice despite being cleared. Now another phenomenal Mike Maccaganan move is paying off for the Jets. This time they’re disagreeing with a guy who was replaced by Alex Lewis a cheaper replacement and will now get stuck with Osemele’s contract for the foreseeable future. It remains to be seen what will happen next but the Osemele situation is one to watch.

The Philadelphia Eagles Rise Above the New York Jets

New York Jets, Avery Williamson

The New York Jets lost another one. They now have started the season 0-4. A team with so much hope has had a very tough start to their season. There’s a lot to dive into from this game so here goes nothing.

Offensive Line Needs An Overhaul

The Jets offensive line has been horrific to watch this season. Like, historically bad. The Jets allowed 10 sacks in Sunday’s game against Philly. Yes, their defensive line is good but not THAT good. The Jets shouldn’t have played as poorly as they did at offensive line. The ”changes” that Adam Gase made really didn’t do very much. The offensive line still couldn’t guard a pee wee football edge rush. Quite frankly they’ve got to get it together. It’s hard to watch. It’s scary that our franchise guy will come back from a dangerous illness and end up behind that terrible offensive line. They’ve got to get it together and at the very least make it through the season without Belk or Darnold getting destroyed.

The Defense Has Played Really Well

The offense has been absolutely pitiful. Obviously injuries, offensive line play, and poor coaching made that happen. However, the defense, on the other hand, has been really good. The main issue with them is that they either have to play defense when the opposing offense has amazing field position or they are exhausted because they’re constantly on the field. Gregg Williams and that defense have dealt with just as many issues as the Jets offense and yet, the defense has been really damn good. That might just be a reflection of coaching but I mean what do I know.

The Play Calling Is An Issue

Unlike some New York Jets fans, I won’t call for Adam Gase’s dismissal. However, he does deserve a lot of blame for the poor start and poor take yesterday. The fact is, Adam Gase doesn’t have a good situation. His star QB is out, his blockers stink and he can’t revolve the offense around key guys if the QB can’t get the ball to them. Luke Falk has performed pretty bad but in his defense, he’s played the last two Super Bowl champs and had little preparation. With that said, an ”innovator”, ”offensive genius” and a ”guy who knows where the game is heading” should be able to produce something on offense. Those were all words labeled to Gase by Chris Johnson. If you’re all those things then you don’t have the defense with as many touchdowns as your offense through 4 games. Gase needs to prove why he’s here and not why he shouldn’t be.

Brighter Days Ahead

Brandon Copeland and Chris Herndon are guaranteed to return to the team this week. Jordan Jenkins, C.J. Mosley, and Sam Darnold could possibly return as well. This team has a much brighter outlook with those 5 on it. Hopefully, this squad comes back to normal with their returns but it all starts at the top and Gase needs to get their act together.

The New York Jets Success Hinges On Sam Darnold

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Sophomore season is something I often talk about in my articles as often time a “slump” or a “breakout” year for players. The New York Jets now rest their hopes of a successful season on the shoulders of a talented QB heading into his sophomore season. That QB is Sam Darnold.

What’s Different For The Jets

Maybe the most loaded question one could ponder. The Jets improved on quite frankly every aspect. The Jets brought in an offensive-minded head coach with a solid track record in Adam Gase. He worked with Peyton Manning and plans to emulate some of that coaching style with Darnold. They then brought in superstar running back Le’Veon Bell who immediately takes the pressure off Darnold and adds a unique dynamic to the Jets offense. The Jets added speedy slot receiver Jamison Crowder who has already built up a good relationship with Darnold and the two click well already. The Jets brought in Ty Montgomery as well to be a dynamic weapon among others.

The New York Jets added new pieces to the offensive line like Kelechi Osemele and Ryan Kalil and will hope to give Darnold stability. The Jets then added the big piece to the front office with Joe Douglas being brought in to take the reigns of the franchise. The Jets brought in, as Jamal Adams calls them, “Dogs” and truly added guys who fit that mold. They’ve built a good group behind Darnold and are going to be able to take some pressure off of him by adding them.

Why Sam Darnold Is Special

Mobility: Darnold is able to change the plays with his feet. When the play breaks down he has the ability to continue to make plays by either running it or keeping calm and finding a spot for the ball. Darnold is deadly accurate on the move and is able to hit his guys and extend the play. It’s a special trait to have and it was something that became more apparent towards the end of the season.

Poise: If you listen to him speak or watch him play you can just see how special he is. He is able to be so calm and keep his poise despite all the obstacles in his way on and off the field. That trait sets him apart from a lot of QBs.

Arm: Darnold is not only accurate but throws a beautiful deep ball. Darnold has a special arm but it’s not his best trait. The fact is his arm is just second to everything else he can do so phenomenally.

Sam Darnold Is Special

What we’ve known all along is Sam is special. Those traits are just some of the many that set him apart. He was special towards the end of the season and now he has a chance to continue his momentum with even more talent around him. The season hinges on the success of Sam. So, Sam the balls in your court and the teams in your hands. What happens next is up to you.

The New York Jets desperately needed Kelechi Osemele

New York Jets, Jets, Kelechi Osemele

Most guys in the NFL are labeled as talented but Kelechi Osemele is an absolute monster.  Kelechi was acquired by the New York Jets this past offseason and at that moment some overlooked his acquisition. From the start of his career, he’s been extremely productive and now as he starts a new chapter, he’s already turning heads.

After being a second-rounder in the 2012 Draft, Osemele was tasked with a huge assignment as a rookie. He had to be a stable and reliable piece of a championship football team. By rotating across the line and being versatile, he heavily contributed to the Ravens Super Bowl win and his high football IQ shined through early on. 

Then in 2013 he suffered an injury and only played 7 games of the season for the Ravens. In 2014, he played well and continued to turn heads. Then, he took a shot on himself and walked and became a free agent in 2016. Osemele was rewarded when be signed a big-money deal that would pay him a five-year $60 million dollar deal. Osemele was a pro bowler and all-pro in his first year in Oakland. He followed that up with a second consecutive pro bowl appearance in 2017.

After battling injuries and having struggles, Osemele was traded to the Jets this offseason. 

Now he joins the team to be a key piece of the offensive line tasked with protecting the future of the franchise, Sam Darnold and a superstar running back, Le’Veon Bell. Osemele brings a veteran presence determined to bring success to this roster.

He demonstrated his high IQ and insane physical ability with just one play when he dumped his block off to absolutely truck the Giants defender. Osemele is a rare mix of inane physical and mental abilities. His addition could easily be looked at as the most vital one of the past offseason for good reason.

New York Jets: Why the offensive line ‘needs’ to improve in 2019

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

The New York Jets made it a priority to improve their offensive line this offseason, and it was imperative they did considering the potentially catastrophic effects of them avoiding the issue.

While a majority of the Jets’ team has been built around the idea of youth, their offensive front has a veteran core that brings years of experience to the table. Arguably the best blocker upfront is Kelechi Osemele, formerly of the Oakland Raiders.

via team reporter Olivia Landis, the veteran is very impressed with how the unit is progressing:

This is a very mature group. A lot of these guys have been starting for a long time already, so there really isn’t any pressure for me to be anybody’s big brother to babysit. Guys are professionals and we have a lot of guys who are trying to come into some bigger contracts and want to do well for themselves. And there’s obviously guys that want to play at a Pro Bowl level. Everybody has an accountability and something that they’re trying to accomplish on this line, so we’re pretty self-sufficient and self-motivated, and we’re pretty driven.

Why does the offensive line need to improve for the New York Jets?

In 2018, the unit allowed an unacceptable 37 sacks (ESPN) – not as much as some teams, but way too much for their rookie quarterback to endure, which saw him pick up minor injuries along the way. The primary reason this group must perform at a higher level is because of Darnold and his youth.

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They need to ensure he remains healthy and on the field, as injuries will only stunt his growth and development. Bringing in players like Osemele to mesh with Kelvin Beachum, Jonotton Harrison, Brian Winters, and Brandon Shell will help protect Darnold from taking unnecessary sacks and staying in the pocket.

We don’t want to have an Eli Manning situation on our hands where Darnold is looking for incoming pressure before reading his progressions. Hopefully, the line can stay healthy over the course of the season and help the young quarterback take his game to the next level.