The Jets have struggled offensively for most of the season. After experiencing success through the air against the Cowboys, the offense totaled 367 yards, turned the ball over eight times and yielded nine sacks the past two weeks in losses to the Patriots and the Jaguars. Sam Darnold completed 51.6% of his passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns in Weeks 7-8 and star RB Le’Veon Bell, who’s been mostly held in check throughout the team’s 1-6 start, rushed just 12 times for 23 yards against the Jaguars, his lowest output since Week 9 in 2014.
How do Adam Gase and Darnold plan to remedy the unit’s recent issues?
Darnold has thrown seven picks and lost one fumble in his last two games after going __ passes without throwing a pick. The 22-year-old said he can be a lot smarter moving forward with a return trip to Florida on deck this weekend. After connecting with Ryan Griffin for a pair of scores in Jacksonville, Darnold will take aim at Miami defense ranked 30th overall (414 Yds/G) and last in scoring (34 Pts/G).
“I think for me, there are some instances where I definitely see myself trying to do too much like on the first interception (against the Jaguars),” he said. “I just needed to throw that ball away. … For me, I just have to continue to play the game and let the game come to me. If I do that, I think I’ll be okay”.
How can the Jets get Bell going? Through seven games this season, he’s mustered 349 rushing yards and 187 receiving yards. Gase said the team has to create more room for the three-time Pro Bowler in the running game.
“For me, as a playcaller, when I see multiple guys squaring him up in the run game, it makes it hard to stick with the run game,” Gase said after Bell had just 12 offensive touches Sunday. “We try to find different ways to get him the ball and you'd like to be able to just get him over the ball and get a couple check-downs, but we're not protecting the quarterback long enough for him to get to the check-downs.
“So, we're always trying to find new ways to get him the ball, trying to find ways to get him touches and get him involved in the offense to where he can produce for us. Right now, it's been really hard to get him any room to go. We've just got to keep working on that and find a way.”
Much of Bell’s production has come after contact as the offensive line has endured a number of personnel changes and failed to establish continuity. The group finished Week 8’s matchup against the Jaguars with just two opening-day starters (RG Brian Winters and RT Brandon Shell). The Green & White are tied for the most sacks allowed this season with 34 and they also rank 31st in terms of rush yards per contest (63.9 Yds/G).
“I've just got to keep looking at it, starting with the play-calls, installations, what we're working on in practice and who we're working on and against,” Gase said. “It's just a lot of little, tiny moving pieces that I've got to really take a look at again and think, 'All right, what's best for us for this upcoming game?' ”
See the Top Images from the Week 8 Matchup in Jacksonville
The play of a quarterback can sometimes mask deficiencies elsewhere, but Darnold also needs more support. After a blistering return to action against the Cowboys, the second-year QB has cooled off as he completed just 51.6% of his passes the last two games. Gase said he’d like to get Darnold on the move more often with designed rollouts, but it’s a team effort to improve the unit’s performance.
“He has to do a better job of protecting himself,” Gase said. “I have to do a better job of calling plays. It's all of us, really, doing a better job at what we're supposed to do to help him kind of get in a rhythm, stay in a rhythm and be able to do that for four quarters.”
Darnold added, “I think staying in manageable downs and distances, those couple drives where we had success, is really the difference. I think just from my play, I can definitely get a lot better and learn from my mistakes as the season continues.”