Head coach Jon Gruden is refusing to take the winless New York Jets lightly, as his reeling Las Vegas Raiders are set to visit on Sunday.
The New York Jets and the Las Vegas Raiders have played some classics dating back to their American Football League days. Sunday’s latest chapter probably won’t be one of the cross-country rivalry’s finest.
Visiting under their Las Vegas moniker for the first time, the Raiders are set to battle the Jets in Week 13 of NFL action (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Jets (0-11) figure to be little more than a minor inconvenience as the Raiders (6-5) remain on the cusp of the AFC playoff picture. But Vegas will be forced to rebuild their playoff case as they enter December reeling from an embarrassing 43-6 defeat in Atlanta last weekend.
The brutal experience against the Falcons has caused Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to reiterate that his growing squad can’t take anyone lightly…even the winless Jets.
“If you watch the Jets play (on Sunday), they’re a handful. They are going to be hard to move the ball on,” Gruden said after the Atlanta debacle, per Josh Dubow of The Associated Press. “This will be a fistfight, no doubt about it. I got a lot of respect for the way the Jets are competing.”
The Jets fell by a 20-3 final to Miami on Sunday, but kept pace with a respectable defensive performance that saw them force two turnovers and four sacks. Three of the Jets’ last five losses have come by one possession.
Gruden has had his share of run-ins with the Jets, as Sunday will mark his seventh time facing Gang Green. He owns a 3-3 record in the set, including a 38-24 win during the 2001-02 AFC Wild Card playoffs, a victory that would become the last of his original Raiders tenure.
Perhaps the most impactful defeat in that ledger came last season. In their Oakland swan song, Gruden’s Raiders were in the midst of a surprising playoff push at 6-4 when they came to East Rutherford to battle the 3-7 Jets. But the team was forced to wake from their postseason dreams in the cruelest of fashions: through a 34-3 shellacking at the hands of their hosts. Sam Darnold tallied 315 yards and two touchdowns, while the defense held Oakland to 10 first downs. It more or less sent the Raiders into a tailspin, as they lost four of their final five games to miss out on the final AFC wild card by two games. To date, it’s the last time the Jets have scored at least 30 points in a game.
Asked in the immediate aftermath about the positives gained in that visit to East Rutherford, Gruden could only smirk and declare “the sun came up today”.
The modern Raiders now have a sense of deja vu, having started last season 6-4 as well before a blowout loss on the road brought them back to earth. Gruden wasn’t interested in comparing this year’s team to last in any way, shape, or form going into their Atlanta visit.
“Everything is different,” Gruden said, per Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Every day-to-day thing we do is different: The way we travel, the way we eat, the way we meet, the way we greet each other.”
So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case from an outsider’s point of view. The Jets, despite their dire predicament, have made it clear that they have no interest in a quest for a goose egg in the win column that would undoubtedly secure them the top overall pick in next spring’s draft. They’ll be looking for some offensive traction as they go into their final five games to avoid complete infamy.
“Our defense is playing well enough for us to win, so we’ve got to get it together as an offense score some points,” guard Greg Van Roten said, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “Our offense just needs to pick it up. We’ve got to get in the red zone. We’ve got to be more efficient on third downs. We have to score touchdowns.”
The New York Jets are officially eliminated from the playoff contention. But the next six weeks might as well be Super Bowls for Sam Darnold.
The holiday season is upon us and with it comes an endless tide of yuletide excuses for getting out of December festivities. Even in these trying times, there are enough activities in a metropolitan area like New York where social distancing can unite with a sense of supposed fun.
For New York Jets fans, however, a weekend with the in-laws may serve as a perfect excuse for avoiding these final hours. Braving cold temperatures to put up Christmas lights may be more preferable to watching the Jets (0-10) attempt to conjure up a victory.
Even the most die-hard, live-or-die Jets fan would be hard-pressed to list reasons to watch the Jets’ final six games of the 2020 season for non-masochistic reasons. The trek starts on Sunday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS), where even the surefire tradition of tailgating has been erased by the distancing mandates. All but one of the adversaries they’ll face would either be in the playoffs if they began immediately or would lose their spot through a tiebreaker. Miami (6-4), for example, is locked into a three-way tie with Las Vegas (another future Jets opponent) and Baltimore for the final AFC wild card spot. Jets fans have more or less resigned themselves to the idea of forming an unholy trinity with the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns in “earning” 0-16 records throughout the course of NFL history. The primary consolation stems from the fact that an 0-16 record would secure the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, where a plethora of gridiron talent, primarily of the throwing variety, will be available. If seeing their name atop of the big boards means there has to be a goose egg in the win column, so be it, the fanbase has seemed to declare.
But the already ludicrous concept of tanking fails to take into account the human aspect involved in the game. Livelihoods could well be on the line as the Jets play out the stretch. For some players, primarily the depth options that have been propelled to the starting lineup through injuries and transactions, strong showings over the next six weeks could well be the difference between suiting up in the NFL or waiting for the XFL to come back.
Then there’s Sam Darnold.
When a team lands into No. 1 pick territory, fans often comfort themselves through knowing a collegiate hero is likely on his way over. That savior is, more often than not, a quarterback, and the pomp and circumstance doubles when a New York team holds the pick in question. Joe Namath, for example, earned his “Broadway” moniker from a Sports Illustrated cover published two months before he threw his first NFL pass. The Jets’ propensity for chaos and football eccentrics is also attached to the quarterback no matter what he does. Darnold has undoubtedly been a victim of kookiness…just look no further than the sophomoric response to his mononucleosis diagnosis last season. The team’s seemingly perpetual rebuild has done little to help matters, as Darnold spent his first two seasons behind a flimsy offensive line racked with turnover.
Yet, in the midst of chaos, Darnold was able to provide ever-so-brief flashes of brilliance that will no doubt be spoken about in anecdotes across the tri-state area. The oncoming December rush could bring forth conversations of his rookie campaign, Darnold leading a game-winning drive in Buffalo during his first meeting against fellow 2018 draftee Josh Allen. Two weeks later, a Festivus Miracle from the Green Bay Packers did nothing to hide the fact that Darnold went head-to-head with Aaron Rodgers and lived to tell the tale. When Darnold returned from his illness last season, he led the reeling, winless Jets to a victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He later gave Jets fans temporary bragging rights over their East Rutherford domicile by outplaying Daniel Jones in a battle with the blue metropolitan team.
The 2020 season was never about making a playoff leap, even with expanded capital. Instead, it could’ve been a throat-clearing year for Darnold, a not-so-subtle warning to the rest of the NFL that the Jets were finally ready to rise. It was to be a year of chemistry and bonding, as a new era was underway with general manager Joe Douglas in tow. One of the first moves Douglas made upon his mid-offseason arrival was to trade for Alex Lewis and convince Pro Bowl staple Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement. That latter move didn’t pan out, but it showed that Douglas was willing to fix the offensive line, whose treatment under predecessor Mike Maccagnan could be described as negligent at best. Douglas spent his first full offseason at the helm building the wall in front of Darnold, drafting Mekhi Becton at No. 11 overall, and adding veterans George Fant, Greg Van Roten, and Connor McGovern. He would partially bolster the skill position slots as well, draft Denzel Mims in the second round to go with free agent Breshad Perriman and returning slot man Jamison Crowder. Many of the additions like Perriman, Fant, and Van Roten, were granted one-year deals or out clauses for 2021. Thus, the 2021 season had the aura of an audition or screen test with a blockbuster star.
Yet, like countless other 2020 happenings, things have not according to plan.
The fact that Darnold has missed four games is concerning, but should not be held against him. Football is a violent game, and one should not be criticized for missing games due to their health. But Darnold is making decisions that would be out of place for a rookie franchise quarterback, never mind the man in the proverbially crucial third year. There have been the trademark flashes of brilliance…such as that long touchdown run in prime time against Denver…but there have been far-too-many head-scratching moves. His 1,045 yards and three touchdown passes are on pace to set career-lows. His numbers currently have him situated in the same category as backups like Kyle Allen and Jeff Driskel. Miami’s rookie thrower Tua Tagovailoa has played three fewer games than Darnold but has already doubled his touchdown pass tally.
What’s made Darnold’s decline even scarier is that the offense was appearing to gain traction under the supervision of backup Joe Flacco. It didn’t lead to wins, but the numbers are troubling from a pro-Darnold concept. The 614-yard, 55-point output against the Chargers and Patriots are the Jets’ respective best tallies over consecutive games. Flacco also threw five touchdown passes in that span, tied with several others…only Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger threw more. Perriman had his best game of the season (5 receptions, 101 yards, and a touchdown against New England), while Chris Herndon broke out of a slump to score his first touchdown of the season against Los Angeles, where Mims also set an infantile career-high in yardage (71 yards on three grabs).
Losses ensued nonetheless, increasing the likelihood that the Jets would secure the top overall pick next spring. Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Kyle Trask, among others, will undoubtedly be up for grabs. The trigger-fingers of NFL decision-makers are quicker than ever in the new decade. Miami drew controversy last week when they lifted Tagovailoa for performance-based reasons in a loss in Denver. Darnold’s fellow SoCal college football legend Josh Rosen is perhaps more familiar with the concept than anyone in recent football memory. It took the Arizona Cardinals a single to move on from both he and head coach Steve Wilks. If the Jets gain the top overall pick and Darnold’s outputs remain where they are…and possibly a new head coach on top of it all…they’d be almost foolhardy
Thus, every week might as well be a Super Bowl for Darnold, at least from a personal level.
Darnold’s early 2020 game ledgers are head to be printed alongside a sizable asterisk: over his first six starts, the USC alum did not have the top receiving trio that the Jets envisioned him to have throughout the course of the year. Perriman, Mims, and Crowder finally got to take the field at the same time and Flacco reaped in the benefits. But with the trio ready to go for Sunday…barring any issues related to the ongoing health crisis…Darnold is out of excuses (not that he’d make any as is). The Jets are in a position where it doesn’t matter if they, as a team, win or lose. Darnold needs to play with a coordinated sense of reckless abandon. New York will spend part of these final futile weeks making a list and checking it twice for what they need this offseason. Darnold must make sure that “franchise quarterback” isn’t on that list. Even if wins don’t follow, it’s not like the Jets are completely out of luck. There is talent beyond the quarterback pool, well represented by blocker Penei Sewell, receiver Ja’Marr Chase, and defenders Micah Parson and Patrick Surtain. It’s up to Darnold to prove that the Jets would be better served fulfilling one of those other needs rather than finding a successor to his franchise throne.
It’s not the type of win-or-go-home situation that Jets fans were rooting for at the start of the season. But if you’re looking for a holiday distraction, Darnold’s quest should prove to be enough of a distraction. Either way, provided he stays healthy, the Jets can earn a win before this year is out: that of clarity.
Sam Darnold hasn’t played in a single game this season with all of the Jets’ top targets. Before the season, in free agency and the draft, the team made considerable strides to add to their receiving corps with the additions of Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. These two players, along with Jamison Crowder, have all shown playmaking ability on the field. Now, they’ll finally get to pair their skills, on the field, with Darnold.
The New York Jets will be playing the Miami Dolphins tomorrow, still looking for their first win of the season. CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco predicts that they will get their first, beating Miami 26-23. That would be a huge feat, on a few levels. Firstly, it would be the first win of their season, as already stated and known. Second, Darnold needs to show that he can still be a winning quarterback in the NFL, either with the Jets or another franchise. Lastly, if Darnold stays, building continuity with the receivers, who have been playing pretty well despite the losses without him, is key.
Sam Darnold last played against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8, missing the last two games (Jets had a bye in Week 10). Over those two games, all three top receivers have played together. In those games, their overall production has been a nice sight and has caused some excitement. The three top receivers, which have been Perriman, Mims and Jamison Crowder respectively, should be excited to have Darnold back, as well.
Breshad Perriman was brought in to be the main deep-threat guy, pretty much replacing Robby Anderson. Over the last two games, he has totaled 7 receptions for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns. The 22.1 yards per reception average has led the team, along with the touchdowns during that span, including two against the division-rival Patriots.
Second-round rookie Denzel Mims has shown his capability of being a very good well-rounded wideout, as well. Over the last two games, he has totaled 7 receptions for 133 yards. The thing that sticks out, especially to possibly delusional Jets fans like myself, is that he has the ability to win tough catches. With great size at 6’3″, 207 pounds, he can be that go-to big target for Darnold, or whoever is playing quarterback next season. He showed that catching ability on one exciting play against the Chargers last week:
I thoroughly enjoy watching Denzel Mims on the field for the #Jets
I am, perhaps, most excited for the Darnold-Mims duo tomorrow. They have been able to play zero snaps, let alone games, together this season. Videos and clips of them together from the preseason was cause for excitement, but it, unfortunately, hasn’t had the chance to translate yet.
Sam Darnold to Denzel Mims at the Jets facility today…
The final piece of the top-three Jets wideouts is Jamison Crowder. To begin the season, he missed two of the first five games. Although, in the three he played, two with Darnold, he totaled 22 receptions for 335 yards and 2 touchdowns. The last two games, however, haven’t been as dominant. Over the last two, he’s totaled just 3 receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers should be expected to increase.
Crowder has been the go-to guy for Darnold over the last two seasons and has helped build a confident connection between the two.
With Perriman being the deep-threat, Mims being an intermediate-to-deep playmaker and Crowder being a short-to-intermediate option primarily, Sam Darnold will finally be surrounded by the best the Jets have to offer.
Joe Flacco played respectably while substituting for Sam Darnold. It’s possible he can play it into a future with the New York Jets.
Those also writing about Joe Flacco’s NFL career likely won’t be using the word “future” much longer.
That’s no slight toward the New York Jets quarterback. Age is a near-undefeated behemoth that has claimed the careers of countless others before him and, at 35, there’s no denying that Flacco’s time is coming. The polarizing ex-Baltimore Raven has built himself a solid NFL career that turned him into one of the major faces of pro football in the 21st century. But his glory days, like his legendary run to Super Bowl XLVII, are long behind him. Football analysts, amateur and professional alike, will likely view his time in a Jets uniform (as well as his eight-game cameo in the colors of the Denver Broncos) through the same, sarcastic lens of Tom Brady’s ongoing Tampa Bay endeavors.
But if this truly is the end for Flacco, could the final, successful chapters be written in green?
With Sam Darnold set to return on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS) in a situation where his job as the franchise man could be on the line, it stands to reason that Flacco, a free-agent-to-be, probably won’t take the field again unless the former endures yet another injury. Flacco has started four games for the Jets (0-10) this season, all after Darnold injured his shoulder in a loss to Denver on October 1, an ailment reaggravated a month later in Kansas City.
The intent behind signing Flacco was clear: if the unthinkable happened to the developing Darnold (again), the Jets would have a decent-enough substitution to tread water until the younger thrower came back. Additionally, if there was ever an on-field mentor for Darnold, one could’ve done far worse than bringing in a former Super Bowl MVP used to adversity. Josh McCown was the best of both worlds before he chose a brief retirement. Flacco believed he could still start for another team after his reign upon the Baltimore throne ended with the emergence of Lamar Jackson, but willingly embraced such a role.
“It’s where I am right now and I’m glad to be on a team playing football in some capacity,” Flacco said after his signing in May, per Andy Vazquez of USA Today. “I think it’s going to be huge to get in there and know the guys and develop a relationship with the team and do anything I can to help the team get better and in that process, help Sam with whatever he needs help with.”
It didn’t take long for the overwhelmed Jets (0-10) to call upon Flacco to empty whatever was left in his NFL quarterbacking tank. Asking him to fully flip the Jets’ fortunes was a little too much…the New York issues go far beyond the quarterback…but, in a surprising turn of events, the Jets’ struggling offense looked how they were supposed to look in 2020: a rebuilding team that was slowly but surely getting it together.
Over the last two weeks, the Jets have earned 614 yards and 55 points under Flacco’s watch, each of which are season-highs in consecutive games. Flacco has done his part, particularly over the last two games with five touchdown passes and 467 yards, good for a passer rating of 102.6. That made him one of a dozen quarterbacks with at least 50 pass attempts with a triple-digit passer rating over the last two games. Only Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger have thrown more touchdown passes than Flacco in that span, with the mark tying him with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert (who had three as his Los Angeles Chargers topped Flacco and the Jets last Sunday).
It’s not like Flacco’s tenure was exempt from 2020 Jets shenanigans; he took a 30-yard sack in a shutout loss in Miami and threw a “really bad” pick-six deep in Jets territory in the most recent defeat in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, the undeniable leadership and defacto spark Flacco brought to the lineup was noticed by his teammates and coaches alike.
“It’s been good for the most part,” receiver Breshad Perriman said of his relationship with Flacco after the defeat in Los Angeles, per Jack Bell of NewYorkJets.com. “Of course it could always be better. But it’s definitely going good.”
Working with Flacco, a fellow former Raven, Perriman has earned touchdown receptions in back-to-back games. Two came in the Jets’ 30-27 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots two weeks ago, good for Perriman’s first 100-yard since last season in Tampa Bay.
“I think you saw it, I think everyone saw it, how well he throws the football,” Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said after the New England game in another report from Vazquez. “This guy, he’s gifted that way, and he did some really nice things for us. He’s really accurate. I do think this guy is a starter in this league, and we’re very fortunate to have the quarterback situation we have right now. And that’s why Joe was brought here.”
The Jets have some major decisions to make when it comes to their quarterback spot. These final hours of the 2020 season could mean everything to Darnold, whose status as the face of the franchise could be in major jeopardy if they get the top overall pick in next spring’s draft. Surprisingly, there may be a little more clarity in the understudy role, because no matter who starts at quarterback for the Jets come 2021…be it Darnold, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Field, or an unknown entity…is going to need some form of mentorship and stability behind him. It’s highly unlikely the Jets will replicate the Kansas City Chiefs’ idea and sit a potential draftee for a year. Duplicating the strategy that ended Flacco’s tenure in Baltimore, where Jackson came in partway through his rookie season, is equally doubtful. But having a veteran quarterback on the roster is essential on the rookie franchise quarterback shopping list. Protection is a close second, but the Jets have admittedly been doing well in that regard with the Mekhi Becton selection paying dividends thus far. That’s where Flacco comes into the Jets’ future plans.
For all we know, the Jets’ offensive progress stemmed not from Flacco, but from the fact that the Jets were able to use their top three receivers (Perriman, Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder) in the same game(s). But if Darnold is willing to carry on the role of the mentor backup, it could be a perfect match and a perfect way to end his career. The role. of a perfect backup quarterback is, if you are pressed into service, don’t be the reason for your squad’s demise. If you can provide mentorship an intuitive sense of know-how to the lineup, that’s an added bonus. Flacco fulfills both of these roles and gives the Jets security for the future.
Flacco, for his part, has not given any indication toward retirement. If he was willing to come back from a neck injury sustained in Denver last season, then mere losses shouldn’t serve a deterrent in advancing things further. If the calling comes, he well could go to a team seeking a quick fix at quarterback to win immediately (the 5-5 Chicago Bears perhaps come to mind as they’re set to revert to Mitchell Trubisky this Sunday night).
But there’s no shame in serving as a veteran mentor to close one’s career. It worked perfectly for guys like Mark Brunell, perhaps one of the most accurate comparisons Flacco will receive. A Super Bowl as a starter was denied to the left-handed Brunell, but he left a lasting mark on the passing antics of the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise, much like Flacco did back in Baltimore.
After his time in Jacksonville ended, Brunell would later end his career with the Jets and New Orleans Saints, winning a Super Bowl with the former. That followed a stop with the team then known as the Washington Redskins, where Brunell took over in the mid-2000s before overseeing a peaceful transition of power to Jason Campbell. He would later mentor Mark Sanchez during two further seasons in New York.
Even the accomplished veteran Drew Brees knows how valuable a lauded backup can be. Brees was already well known upon his New Orleans arrival, but mentioned that Brunell helped him reach his ultimate heights. The two would go on to win Super Bowl XLIV together, with Brees capturing the MVP honors Flacco would earn three years later.
“You’re talking about a great mentor in so many ways,” Brees told Bill Baker of The Times-Picayune prior to embarking on that championship trek. “He’s started so many games, started so many big games. He’s played a lot of football at a very high level. He’s been to conference championship games before, been to Pro Bowls; he’s done all those things. He’s played in a lot of interesting systems with a lot of great coaches. There’s just a wealth of knowledge that I can draw from.”
Uncertainty continues to loom over the Jets’ quarterback situation, a feeling that has lurked for far too long. Bringing back Flacco, ironically destined for backup duties, would add a tremendous deal of clarity for a franchise in desperate need of it.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase announced on Friday that Sam Darnold will return to the team’s starting lineup on Sunday, as the team heads home to MetLife Stadium to battle the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Darnold will make his first appearance since November 1 at Kansas City, when he reaggravated a shoulder injury suffered a month prior against Denver.
“It’s been a good week for Sam,” Gase said, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. “It just looks a lot different from the last time he tried to make a run at going in a game.”
Though the Jets (0-10) are officially removed from the AFC playoff picture, these final six games could mean everything to Darnold, whose 2020 struggles have observers and analysts wondering if he is still the Jets’ future under center. Having missed four games this season, Darnold is currently on pace to set career-lows with 1,045 passing yards and three touchdown passes.
But, right from the get-go, things will be different for Darnold than they were at the start of the season. Sunday against Miami will mark the first time that Darnold is able to work with the trio of receivers the Jets envisioned would be at the top of the depth chart at the start of the year. Darnold will work with second-round rookie Denzel Mims for the third time this season, having previously united with him for 84 yards on six receptions in tilts against Kansas City and Buffalo. Veterans Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder will likewise be ready to go. The Jets’ offense has enjoyed a slight resurgence upon the trio’s collaboration, tallying 614 yards and 55 points over the last two games, both of which are season-highs over consecutive games. Joe Flacco took over for Darnold in the meantime, leading the Jets to respectable outputs in losses to New England and the Los Angeles Chargers.
In comments made earlier this week, Darnold praised the progress that the incoming receiving trio was able to make, but also expressed personal excitement to get back on the field and lead the Jets to a victory. New York is the lone winless team in the NFL as the season prepares to reach its final stages.
Obviously, those guys are doing a really good job and are making plays for us,” Darnold said, per notes from the Jets. Regardless of their situation and how well they are playing, I just want to be out there, regardless of that. I’m always going to be eager to want to go out there and play football.”
Darnold is 1-3 against the Dolphins in his career, the lone win coming last season in East Rutherford. He would tally 270 yards and two scores in the Jets’ 22-21 triumph.
After Wednesday’s practice, Sam Darnold appears to be inching toward partaking in the New York Jets’ home tilt against Miami.
Sam Darnold returned to New York Jets practice on Wednesday as the team continues to prepare for their Sunday afternoon matchup against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Darnold took all of the first-team reps under center, relegating Joe Flacco to scout-team duties.
Prior to practice, head coach Adam Gase said that Darnold was a “day-to-day” case, per notes provided by the Jets. Gase added that the plan going into practice would allow Darnold to “eliminate any kind of unnecessary throwing”.
“We’re going in there thinking that he’s going to be able to do quite a bit,” Gase said. “Sometimes during these special teams periods and things like that, a lot of throws are made in those periods. We’ll really limit those. Most of his throws will come either in individual or team periods.”
Darnold is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury originally sustained in an October 1 loss to Denver. He returned two weeks later for a divisional tilt against Buffalo but aggravated the ailment in the next game in Kansas City. Joe Flacco has assumed quarterback duties in the meantime and has overseen the Jets’ best offensive outputs of the year, including a season-best 322 yard in their Week 9 loss to New England leading into their open date. The offensive resurgence has coincided with the first instances of Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, and Jamison Crowder collaboratively taking the field. That trio topped the Jets’ receiving depth chart at the beginning of the year, but injuries prevented them from playing together in the early going.
Flacco has tallied 864 yards, six touchdowns, and an 80.5 passer rating over five games in subbing for Darnold. He confirmed that he took exclusively scout-team snaps on Wednesday and praised Darnold’s progress.
“He was running around out there, throwing the ball well, his arm was live, I mean that’s really most of what you can gather out there today,” Flacco said, per the Jets. “But you know, I thought his arm looked, the ball looked like it was spinning and coming at guys, so I thought he looked really good.”
Darnold spoke earlier this week and echoed Gase’s ideas of viewing things from a day-by-day lens. He also expressed anticipation in working with the revamped receiving corps if and when he returns. The quarterback has had minimal work with Mims, for example, after the first was chosen out of Baylor in the second round of April’s draft.
“Those guys are doing a really good job and are making plays for us,” Darnold said of the trio, per the Jets. “Regardless of their situation and how well they are playing, I just want to be out there, regardless of that. I’m always going to be eager to want to go out there and play football.”
Only adding to the idea of Darnold starting on Sunday is the fact that the Jets (0-10) released quarterback Mike White earlier this week and readded him to their practice squad. The former Dallas Cowboys draft pick served as Flacco’s backup over the past two games.
This season has been very tough for the New York Jets. With the Jets already out of playoff contention for this season, they need to start working for next season. Should the Jets lockdown Breshad Perriman to a long-term deal and keep him with Sam Darnold?
Perriman has been battling injuries this season, missing four games this season. Before Week 9, Perriman only averaged 2.75 catches a game, with only 29.5 yards per game in the other four games he started in. With his poor performance at the beginning of the season, why should the Jets re-sign him?
Why should the New York Jets re-sign Perriman?
Perriman signed a one-year deal with the Jets this past offseason for $6.5 million. Perriman in the past two weeks has been the deep threat the Jets have needed. Perriman has caught seven out of his 11 targets for 155 yards and three touchdowns in the last two weeks. Perriman has easily been the bright spot of this poor Jets offense.
Think about this trio of receivers, if they all can be healthy. Perriman, rookie Denzal Mims, and Jamison Crowder. That is a solid trio that can stay with Darnold for years. With all three receivers all playing at once, the Jets’ offense average 27.5 points in all three of their games. Gang Green needs to keep these three together.
Perriman has only been successful in two games this season. He has been terribly inconsistent. If you want a multi-year extension, you have to play consistently week in and week out. Perriman has only tallied at least four receptions or 60 yards only twice this season. Perriman consistency is going to have to change for the last six games for the Jets if he wants that contract.
Not only Perriman has not been the best player on the field earlier in the season, but he has also missed a bunch of games. Perriman missed four games this season due to ankle, knee, shoulder, and concussion injuries. Perriman needs to stay healthy for the next six games if he wants that multi-year deal.
The New York Jets have a lot to think about this offseason. Perriman is a player that needs to be thought about for the Jets and personally a player that the Jets need to bring back. To have that trio of Perriman, Mims, and Crowder could be solid for Darnold in years to come.
The hot button issue of the New York Jets organization right now is whether or not to trade former number three overall pick and presumed franchise quarterback Sam Darnold in order to clear the way for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawerence. Now, in theory, as the Jets continue to lose, the likelihood of the New York Jets trading Darnold increases by the day. Here’s the thing though, Darnold has been bit by the injury bug in a big way during his first three years. Not only that, but with a career line of 6,934 yards, 39 TDs, 34 INTs, and an overall passer rating of 78.3, there are surely more proven commodities on the market. So, what does a potential market look like for Sam Darnold, and what kind of value could he hold?
It’s evident the Jets are tanking at this point. Roles are being cleared out for younger players to stake their claim to be here for the long haul, the incompetent coaches were not axed, and if a player needs extensive recovery time, they are getting it. Darnold is a prime example of someone who likely could’ve tried to play through an injury but was kept on the bench in order to protect him and, more specifically, his value in the long term.
In talking about Sam and his potential value, you cannot forget the fact that he is only 23 years old. Not only that, but he is still the same physically talented athlete who was selected out of USC just a short time ago. Darnold has regressed, though, due to poor coaching, injuries, and lack of talent at skill positions and in protection. At times though, despite all those circumstances, Darnold has looked like a special talent. There are still many within the league who agree with that statement as well.
If Darnold is to hit the trade market, there is hope the Jets can recoup significant compensation. Specifically, though, a first-rounder. If the Jets are unable to obtain a first for Sam, it is going to sting. Now, don’t get me wrong, the floated around a combo of a 2nd and a 5th would be great, but not for a 23-year-old quarterback. See, the Jets should play hardball with Sam, if they’re going to draft Trevor Lawerence, they should and will trade him, but at the same time, they can’t give him a way.
A 2 and a 5 offers great flexibility, but anything above that, particularly a 1st, would be a phenomenal deal. Josh Rosen was mediocre at best in his rookie season, and he fetched a 2nd, so Sam’s value should exceed that. Joe Douglas has shown in the past he is capable of making massive trades, a la the Adams to Seattle deal. Darnold may have flaws, but he could also be the missing piece for a franchise. A team like the 49ers, the Bears, or the Colts could pull the trigger on Sam because right now, there are not many other young and high potential options outside of the draft.
A team like the Bears may be reluctant to take a shot on Sam if they feel they’re a few pieces away. However, the Colts and 49ers have both shown they can be two of the top teams in the league when healthy, but both teams need a more talented and long term signal-caller. Jimmy Garoppolo and Phillip Rivers have had their moments just like Sam, but in Garoppolo’s case, he is likely nearing his ceiling. As for Rivers, he has played solid football this year, but his days are likely numbered on his career. Trading for Sam could rejuvenate one of those offenses that have felt so stagnant this year while also landing the Jets premium draft capital and signaling the true beginning of a new era in New York, led by Trevor Lawerence.
The situation is undeniably dire, but there are still clean, less-than-macabre reasons for New York Jets fans to keep watching.
After a one-week reprieve, the New York Jets return to the football field on Sunday…much to the chagrin of their embattled fanbase.
The Jets’ annual bye was perhaps liberating for supporters of the NFL’s only winless team in 2020. It perhaps gave them the freedom to talk to family members, work around the house, prepare for their own week ahead. They probably tuned into other NFL action or partook in the final round of The Masters during a busy Sunday in sports. Those in the metropolitan area, in fact, are blessed enough that this tri-state area provides enough activities in which to adequately distance that one perhaps can avoid the Jets outright as they wrap up a woebegone 2020 season.
But countless fans will undoubtedly flock to their television monitors on Sunday late afternoon to watch the Jets battle the Los Angeles Chargers in their first visit to SoFi Stadium (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). New York returned to Florham Park this week, looking to find the good from their latest loss, a 30-27 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots. Head coach Adam Gase that his team won’t be going down without a fight as they prepare to play seven weeks of what will amount to mostly meaningless football.
“I think we had some really good plays this last game, where we won one-on-one matchups and made the other side pay for it. I think defensively, we just got to continue to get better at getting people off the field,” Gase said, per notes from the Jets. “I think there’s a lot of little details that we can definitely clean up and I know our coaching staff’s, that’s what they spent the majority of the last week doing is making sure that we had a good plan going into this week, we explained it to the players today, we made sure that we went in detail of our expectations and what we need to work on moving forward.”
If Jets fans truly need a reason to get back into the fold of things, if only to have a built-in excuse for avoiding holiday preparations, ESM has a corresponding number of reasons…
Mims’ the Word
Jets fans had to be patient when it came to Denzel Mims’ NFL debut after the second-round pick endured hamstring injuries during training camp that eventually put him on injured reserve. So far, Mims has proven to be well worth the wait, earning 146 yards on 10 receptions thus far. Mims has earned positive reviews for his route running and ability to create separation and set an infantile career-best with 62 receiving yards in last week’s Monday night tilt against New England.
“I think the last few weeks you’ve seen some positive things from him, especially for a guy who’s really had two weeks of practices prior to playing in two games,” general manager Joe Douglas said about Mims, per Jack Bell of NewYorkJets.com. “I mean really, this is almost like the end of training camp for him in terms of the amount of actual professional football reps that he’s had. We’re really excited about seeing his progression these last eight games and what he brings in terms of his catch radius, ball skills, and route running.”
The Baylor alum has strong potential as a big play receiver and has put the Jets’ minds at ease for passing on several name-brand receiving talents at 11th overall to take Mekhi Becton (who has done a decent job in dispelling those doubts as well). Some big milestones could await Mims over these final hours, including his first NFL touchdown and 100-yard game. Provided all stay healthy, the Jets’ progress with the top three receivers of their group (with Mims joining veterans Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman) should be something to keep an eye on. With all three in the lineup for the first on Monday against the Patriots, the Jets put up a season-best 322 yards of offense.
The Kids Are All Right
Even with extra playoff capital, 2020 was never meant to be a year of contention for the Jets, but one to develop and nurture their rookies. Between Becton and Mims, Douglas’ first draft has positive reviews, but other plays have struggled to get into the fold due to injuries (OL Cameron Clark, DE/LB Jabari Zuniga, CB Bryce Hall), or being stuck behind talent that has been bid farewell (RB La’Mical Perine, S Ashytn Davis)) or lost to injuries of their own.
With nothing to lose, there could be some prime opportunities for the Jets to work their rookies in their lineup on a more regular basis. Gase certainly appeared to have the idea in his mind shortly before the Jets departed for their open date.
“We’ve got to lead the way. I think especially, this rookie class, these guys have done a good job of just focusing on the present, trying to get better, trying to make sure that when their number is called that they’re available and they’re ready to make plays,” Gase in Jets notes. “I know these guys are getting a ton of playing time now, and that’s going to work to our benefit in the long run. It’s frustrating right now to go through, but seeing these guys going out there and playing and the amount of guys that are playing that are that are rookies, I want to say we almost had 10 playing this last game.”
“The thing that you can say is the effort is through the roof, they’re given everything they have. We’re going to have to live through some mistakes, but at the same time a lot of these guys are playmakers and they’re going to help us find ways to win games eventually.”
The Last Stand of Super Bowl XLVII
Joe Flacco and Frank Gore are more than likely set to join Brett Favre and Chris Johnson on the all-time “Wait, He Played for the Jets?” team’s depth chart. But these staples of new century football may be making their final stands not only in green New York uniforms but in the NFL as a whole. Flacco has taken over starting duties in the absence of Sam Darnold while Gore continues to hold primary rushing duties since Le’Veon Bell departed.
While it’s clear that neither potential future Hall-of-Famer is living up to the numbers or performances of their glory days, the former Super Bowl co-combatants have embraced their roles as veteran mentors to a team full of young players and guys trying to find their NFL footing.
“My goal is to show the young guys what it takes to be successful in the NFL. If they can see me working hard every day, they have no other choice than to follow. I’m going to keep working and keep fighting,” Gore told the Inside the Jetspodcast. “That’s why I’m playing the game still.”
“The only thing you can do and, in terms of being on teams that have gotten through tough times, is that you have to stay in the moment, tune out the outside noise,” Flacco said in a report from Bell following a defeat in Miami last month. “It’s a lot harder to go out every week in practice. It happens to a bunch of teams every year, but the NFL doesn’t stop playing games because you’re going through a tough time.”
The Jets’ youngest participants would be wise to heed the advice of Gore, who is now 993 yards away from passing Walter Payton for second place on the all-time NFL rushing yards list. Gore’s NFL endeavors began in the midst of a rebuild in San Francisco, who began the rusher’s career with six consecutive non-winning seasons. With the help of fellow homegrown talents like Vernon Davis, Alex Smith, Patrick Willis, and Colin Kaepernick, Gore eventually broke the 49ers out of their rut with a 13-win season in 2011. The season after, Gore led the charge for the 49ers’ first Super Bowl trek in nearly two decades.
“Frank has been an unbelievable veteran to have on this team,” Douglas said, per notes and video from the Jets. “The leadership that he brings on a daily basis, how vested he is to help not only the offense but the entire team and especially young guys.
Free Agency’s Anything But Free
Part of the reason why it’s so ludicrous to guilt the Jets into the already ludicrous notion of tanking is that there well could be some NFL futures on the line moving forward. Rookies are relatively safe and veterans like Gore and Flacco are another step toward retirement or don’t figure to play major roles in future depth charts. But the Jets have plenty of free-agents-to-be whose last seven weeks could well be the difference between an NFL job next year and counting down the days until the XFL’s return in 2022.
The Jets have 29 players set to hit free agency once the 2020 season hits its merciful end. Primary among them are several defensive starters like Marcus Maye, Pierre Desir, and Brian Poole (who is currently dealing with injuries). An inevitable purge is likely coming to the Jets roster, a storm signaled by the dealing of reliable veterans like Bell, Avery Williamson, and Steve McLendon elsewhere. The final seven games will more or less serve as an audition for not only New York for the other 31 NFL outposts across the country. Offensively, Breshad Perriman will seek to not only stay healthy, but look to try and build a long-term home in either New York or elsewhere as he works with the final stages of his one-year deal inked over the spring. The former first-round pick is certainly excited about the immediate future and the opportunities ahead over these last seven weeks, especially if he can continue to work with Mims and Crowder on a consistent basis.
“You’ve got to kind of be positive about the situation,” Perriman said of the New England loss, per Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com. “It was the best game the offense has had all season, and like that’s just the start.”
Sam-I-Am (the Future?)
Darnold’s continuing issues with a shoulder injury couldn’t have come at a worse possible time from a personal standpoint. With the team on a collision course for the No. 1 pick and the quarterback prospects that come with it in next spring’s draft, these final weeks could’ve served as one last stand for him, seven opportunities where the only thing that mattered is providing reassurance to the Jets’ decisionmakers that he is indeed the man under center for the future. The already painful injury must certainly sting a little more with the top receivers back, which could’ve set the stage for Darnold’s long term future.
In his statements during the bye week return, Darnold expressed a desire to play well over these final weeks but made it clear that his health had to come first, especially since he has already missed considerable time due to injury this season. Darnold sustained the injury during the Jets’ Week 4 loss against Denver and suffered a re-aggravation four weeks later against Kansas City.
“I’m just going to continue to do what I need to do, first and foremost to get healthy, and then when I do play, play well. Just make sure that I’m doing everything I need to do to execute the plays that are called,” Darnold said, per notes from the Jets. “At the end of the day, my job as a quarterback is to move the ball down the field, take care of the football, and score touchdowns. I feel like once I get back out there, I’m going to do everything I can to do that.”
If and when Darnold gets healthy and gets back on the field, his potential last stand could be one of the biggest storylines across the league, especially amongst the eliminated teams.
Q & Pay
To say it’s been a tough season from a Jets standpoint would be the understatement of this chaotic year. But Quinnen Willaims, the final top pick of the Mike Maccagnan era, has undergone a redemption season that shows exactly why it was worth taking him third overall in the 2019 draft proceedings.
Apparently set to stick around after some rumors of a deal swirled at the trade deadline, Williams has been one of the rare consistent silver linings of the modern Jets. The sophomore from Alabama has already broken his rookie totals in tackles (31), tackles for a loss (7), and sacks (3). Amongst his fellow interior linemen, Williams ranks in the top ten in a good number of Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics.
The final seven games of Williams’ strong push in the right direction should be inspiring to Jets fans everywhere.
“He’s at the very top of our league as an interior guy,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (no relation) said shortly after the trade deadline passed, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “He’s only going to get better. I believe that. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be really, really, really good and I’m glad he’s here.”
This could well play a factor in the Jets’ joining the Lions and Browns in 0-16 infamy, but the Jets have an improbable chance to leave an impact on the NFL playoff picture in their winless state. With the exception of the Chargers (whose seven losses have come by a combined 32 points), each of the Jets’ remaining adversaries is no more than two games removed from a playoff spot. If the season ended today, all but two (the Chargers and Patriots) would go to the postseason.
The idea of the Jets disrupting the postseason party is not as shocking as it seems. Last season, their Week 16 win over Pittsburgh was more or less responsible for keeping the Steelers out of the 2019-20 playoffs. In modern times, this woeful campaign might all be worth it in the end if the Jets were to go to Seattle in Week 14 and at least put a dent in Jamal Adams’ playoff hopes. The Seahawks currently hold the final NFC playoff slot after dropping three of their last four games, leading Chicago by a game-and-a-half.
While many Jets fans would probably be downright pleased with losing outright to improve their draft position (if the apathetic reaction to the New England loss was any indication), the players aren’t letting the scary schedule determine their fate.
“It is Monday night football, but at the end of the day it is another game, another opportunity,” Fatukasi said prior to the New England game according to Bell. “My biggest objective is to go in and play as hard as I can with my teammates, rally with my teammates, and play a good game.”
Seeking a win of any kind, the New York Jets can add to the New England Patriots’ woes or play an unwilling role in their redemption.
If you told New York Jets fans that their team would be only two and a half games behind the New England Patriots headed into a nationally televised Week 9 meeting, that would probably leave fans of the metropolitan green team with at least a sliver of hope. After all, New York fans have more or less grown accustomed to professional athletic dominance from the New England area over the last decade. If the Jets would be able to at least somewhat keep pace with the juggernaut from Gillette Stadium, that’d be enough to provide some warm feelings as the season grows colder.
Alas, it appears the Jets may finally be able to catch up to the Patriots…if only because New England has sunk with the face of its franchise absconding to Florida for a de facto early retirement.
The Jets’ ineptitude has perhaps taken the shine off the fall of the Patriots (2-5). It used to take two full years for New England to experience five losses. This time around, it took less than two months. Even the surefire staple of a win over the Buffalo Bills was denied to them in 2020, as the Patriots fell 24-21 to a team that held a 4-34 record against them since 2001. The Buffalo dilemma followed a 33-6 defeat to San Francisco…the worst loss the Patriots had ever suffered at Gillette Stadium since its 2002 opening. This active four-game losing streak even caused stoic head coach Bill Belichick to break character, remarking to former assistant Charlie Weis on SiriusXM NFL Radio that the Patriots had “sold out” in an attempt to immediately win more Super Bowls. New England’s four losses are the most consecutive defeats the team has suffered since Belichick’s debut year in 2000.
This comes while Tom Brady has resumed his status as an ageless wonder in Tampa Bay, to the tune of 20 touchdown passes (having thrown 24 over his final year in Foxboro) and a 103.5 passer rating. Several other familiar faces and contributors to the non-stop AFC East title-spewing machine (i.e. Julian Edelman and Stephon Gilmore) have missed time with injuries. But those in New England know that the way they’ve played during this streak is unacceptable no matter the circumstance.
“Losing is not acceptable in this locker room, in this county, in this state, in this area, in this region, so, Cameron Newton, you need to pick your (expletive) up,” Cam Newton, Brady’s successor, said after the San Francisco debacle, per Mark Daniels of The Providence Journal. “I understand that type of football play is unacceptable. I’m all about putting the football team in the best position to win. That’s what I have to do here moving forward.”
Much as they’d probably like to, the Jets (0-8) and their fans are in no position to laugh at and openly revel like the rest of the football world in New England’s demise. They continue to hunt for a mere single, though a close game would probably set off a parade down the Canyon of Heroes after enduring an average margin of defeat of three possessions over the first half of the season. The winless first half of the year was addressed by general manager Joe Douglas earlier this week. He immediately dismissed any idea of tanking and called the Patriots out by name in his statements, directly referencing the teams’ Monday night matchup (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) when asked about the idea of the Jets being better off with a loss.
“That’s not our thought process,” Douglas said. “We’re focused on the New England Patriots and we’re focused on getting better every day. As cliché as that sounds that’s, that we’re focused on.”
The Patriots’ struggles and the fact they’re traveling to MetLife Stadium on Monday have placed the Jets in a most unusual spot: even with no wins, they might just well be in a…trap game?
After all, if the Jets are going to eke out a win at some point, doing so against the cold Patriots might be the best chance left on their slate. With the exception of the Patriots and their first visit to SoFi Stadium to battle the Chargers in two weeks, each of the Jets’ remaining opponents are either in a current playoff spot or no more than a half-game out. Predictably, the players on the Jets’ current rosters are giving no credence to clinching the top draft pick. As the NFL’s only winless team, the Jets have the inside track for the top overall pick next spring. But doesn’t matter to the guys already dressed in green.
Starting quarterback Sam Darnold, 0-2 in his career against the Patriots, likely won’t play on Sunday due to a shoulder issue. But his words can serve as inspiration to he remaining teammates that will take the MetLife Stadium field on Sunday.
“Obviously everyone wants to win,” Darnold said, Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press. “That’s why we’re in this business. That’s why we’re professional football players. We got here by winning football games. For us, we’ve just got to put our heads down and go back to work. I feel like if we do that, we can win this game and worry about the next when it’s up.”
Darnold will likely be forced to give way to Joe Flacco, who knows at least a little something about getting the best of the Patriots. Though he’s 3-6 as a starter against New England, one of those wins came in the 2013 AFC title game, where he threw for three touchdowns in the Baltimore Ravens’ trek to Super Bowl XLVII.
But the true focus on the Jets’ young players, particularly on the offensive front. First-round choice Mekhi Becton will partake in the first of what’s envisioned to be many Jets-Patriots matchups. Fifth-round pick Bryce Hall will possibly taking on a bigger role in defense upon the release of Quincy Wilson. Denzel Mims has gotten off to a solid start after the second-round receiver was mostly forced to the bench with injuries.
Mims, chosen in the second round, is expected to be joined by Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman, each of whom have likewise missed time due to medical woes. Should they all partake in Monday’s game, it’ll mark the first time that the Jets have the the top receivers they envision having at the top of their depth chart at the start of the season.
“I think that’s really where we’ve got to make some strides there,” Gase said of his young receivers. “Just kind of like hearing the call and that picture pops in, you go to exactly where you need to go, you know the adjustments and you can play fast. And we’ve just got to keep working through all that stuff, that’s part of the growth process.”
Though the standings are a lost cause, to say the least, the Jets will have something major to play for on Monday, namely missing out on dubious franchise history. Should the Jets fall to New England, the 2020 edition would become the first team in franchise history to start 0-9. Even the one-win squad under Rich Kotite in 1996 avoided such a mark, doing so in Arizona in the ninth game.
On the other side, the Patriots aren’t so concerned about their recent dominance of the Jets as they are with getting back on track. New England still believes they can continue a postseason streak dating back to 2009, but any chance of continuing that hinges on a victory against the Jets. The Patriots currently sit two-and-a-half games behind Cleveland for the final AFC wild-card spot.
“I don’t think we’re a bad football team,” center David Andrews said, per Mark Daniels of Metro West Daily News. We don’t have a great record, but I don’t think we’re a bad football team.”
On the subject of winless teams, New England cornerback Jason McCourty has some prior knowledge. A former Cleveland Brown, McCourty was a part of the NFL’s last winless effort, the 2017 edition that joined the 2008 Lions in 0-for-16 infamy. Two early wins will help New England avert such a fate, but McCourty hopes that lessons learned during the harrowing 2017 campaign will help the his current compatriots get back on track.
“Don’t forget where you came from. I went through an 0-16 season and a 2-14 season and a 3-13 season. So, I’ve been through worse,” McCourty said in Daniels’ report. “You’re not going to change it by walking around here being negative or with your head down or declaring your season to be over. The only way you’re going to create change or get out of the situation you’re in, is to continue to work.”
“I think that if you’re negatively working, those are going to be the results you’re going to get. Something that’s often said around here is ‘turn the page’ and ‘On to whatever the next team is.’ For us right now, it’s the Jets. That’s our main focus. We can’t do anything about the loss to the Bills or the loss to the Niners.”