Sam Darnold’s Week 6 return from mono was contagious for both fans and players, but his impact might’ve been most felt along the offensive line.
“Competitiveness, leadership and he’s a captain for a reason,” left guard Alex Lewis said of Darnold. “Having a guy like that is huge for us. He takes control of the offense and we just roll with it.
“It felt awesome. It was a huge addition to have Sam out there and to be up front and all communicating on the same page. It’s a good feeling when you’re doing your job well and you’re winning games.”
The offensive line was placed under a microscope after some early struggles in 2019 because the opening-day starting unit hadn’t played together until Week 1 as LG Kelechi Osemele, C Ryan Kalil and RG Brian Winters missed almost the entirety of the preseason. Lewis, who joined the Green & White Aug. 5 via trade with the Ravens, started three games in the preseason and was thrown into the fire the last two games in place of the injured Osemele.
“Just like in life, you’re always going to face adversity,” Lewis said. “As an offensive line, I always say you’re the team within the team. Your team is always going to change depending on who’s in there. But we always say, so what, now what? Next man up and let’s get rolling because we can’t regress whether we throw a new guy in there or we have a guy who is at a different position. You just have to be able to do your job and execute.”
See the Top Images from the Week 6 Victory at MetLife Stadium
The fourth-year veteran has started 20 games in his career and brings a typical O-lineman nastiness up front. The 6’6”, 305-pounder felt the offensive line would come together with time and perhaps uncoincidentally, the group’s best performance came in Darnold’s return to the lineup.
“You love it because it avoids pressures and hits on the QB,” Lewis said of the 22-year-old signal-caller’s shiftiness in the pocket. “Any great quarterback is going to have a really strong pocket presence and Sam’s got that. He knows where to step to avoid a hit or an arm or a pressure. Knowing you have that as an offensive lineman, it’s almost like a safety blanket. It’s not something you want to rely on, but it is nice when you have it.”
Darnold was sacked twice in the team’s 24-22 win over the Cowboys and the Jets are set to tango with their division rival New England Patriots Monday night. Lewis didn’t play against the Pats in Week 3 in the Green & White’s 30-14 loss but said there’s still a lot to take from of their first matchup, e.g., scheme, coverages, stunts, individual moves, stunts and blitzes.
“They’re a good group that works great together,” Lewis said. “They have a bunch of different looks whether it’s even, odd, over, under, all the different blitz packages they have and they can run out of either of those setups. You just have to be prepared as an offensive lineman to expect everything. And when you get into a jam, if it’s something you didn’t see, you have to be able to come to the sideline, make the adjustment and then go execute the next drive.”
New England has the No. 1 defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 234.7 yards per game, and the Jets are fully aware who’s coming to town.
“I wouldn’t call it a measuring-stick game,” Lewis said. “I would call it a competitive game because that’s what it is. It’s a division game, it’s worth double and that’s how we have to treat it as such. This week you have to really dial in, have laser focus, eliminate all distractions and just be ready to come to work every day and worry about what you have now.
“Under the lights at MetLife — it doesn’t get much better than that.”