Veteran QB Joe Flacco will make his fourth start of the 2020 NFL season, at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, after the Jets' Sam Darnold was ruled out as he deals with a tender right (throwing) shoulder.
"Sam won't practice and won't play this game," Head Coach Adam Gase said during a conference call on Monday. "Joe is starting right now. We're looking for him [Sam] to see where he is following this game, to get him back sooner rather than later."
Darnold first injured the shoulder in a Thursday night game against Denver, missed two games and then re-aggravated his right shoulder against Kansas City. He is set to be sidelined for his fourth game this season.
Gase had hoped in early November that Darnold would be ready to face the Patriots in a Monday night game, but those plans went by the wayside when Darnold continued to feel pain.
"When he came back the first time, he wasn't having issues making throws," Gase said. "The pain last week wasn't the same as it was the time before. It was tough for him last week. He tried, but couldn't throw the way he thought he should, that's why he didn't play last week. We want to make sure he can make the throws he wants to make, with the velocity he wants, the touch he wants without having to overexert himself."
Even with the open date last weekend, Darnold said that he has come to terms with the need to give himself more time to heal properly and completely.
"I look back on that play against Kansas City when I could have gone down," Darnold said about a third-quarter scramble. "It was the biggest mistake of them all. Now I need to let it heal, let this thing run its course and make sure I'm 100 percent before I come back."
After facing the Chargers, the Jets return to the East Coast for an AFC East clash against the Miami Dolphins. The hope is that Darnold will be ready for that game.
"I don't want to make any predictions," Gase said. "I'm hoping we can get him back as soon as he's ready to go."
Darnold added: "I'm very confident I will play this year. For me, again, it's making sure when I come back I'm 100 percent, so I'm not going to get reinjured if I land on it or get hit."
Getting Back at It
As the Jets battle to secure their first win of the season, Gase said he saw some positives on offense and small improvements on defense. Still, the head coach said the team needs more.
"I think really, offensively, the biggest thing is always going to be battling until we prove we can beat man-coverage consistently," he said. "We had some really good plays this last game where we won one-on-one matchps and made the other side pay for it. Defensively, we have to get better at getting people off the field. We have to get teams in third and long, avoid double-digit drives. There are a lot of details we can clean up."
Other than Darnold's status, perhaps the biggest injury concern centered on rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton, who left the Patriots game early on and did not return. He sustained a chest injury, but is expected to play against the Chargers.
"They [trainers and doctors] went through everything while the game was going on, did all kinds of tests, but for whatever reason he couldn't get back out there," Gase said. "He wasn't feeling comfortable. The next day he was double- and triple-checked. It all seems to be OK. He was struggling in that game. I don't have a great explanation for it. I'm just glad he's alright."
In other injury news: Gase said that K Sam Ficken (groin) is likely to be available on Sunday; DL Quinnen Willams (hamstring) will be limited in practice this week; LB Blake Cashman (hamstrings) is unlikely to play on Sunday; DL Harry Anderson (knee/ankle) could miss practice time; and the status of CB Brian Poole (shoulder/knee) depends on how he progresses this week.
Games on the Left Coast
When the Jets travel to Southern California to face the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, it will be the start of a string of three games on the West Coast in a five-week span.
After facing the Chargers and rookie QB Justin Herbert, the Jets will host Miami (Nov. 29) and then Las Vegas (Dec. 6) before games at Seattle (Dec. 13) and at the Los Angeles Rams (Dec. 20).
In 2020, the Jets are slated to travel 17,246 miles, 12th-most among NFL teams. The Seahawks are No. 1, traveling 29,982. The Jets are fourth among the other AFC East teams, behind Miami (21,183), Buffalo (20,066) and New England (19,266). Under the NFL's opponents rotation schedule, the division plays teams in the AFC and NFC West this season.
In 2019, the Jets (6,730) were the only team in the league to travel fewer than 8,000 miles during the course of the regular season. By contrast, the Raiders (who were still in Oakland) logged the most, 32,023 miles. The top five teams (Raiders, Rams, Chargers, Seahawks and 49ers) in terms of travel miles all call the West Coast home.
Thanks to my colleague Randy Lange for passing along some facts and figures about the Jets' past forays to the West Coast. ...
Of the three teams the Jets are scheduled to play this season, they are 6-13 vs. the Chargers (San Diego/LA) since their first meeting in 1960; 3-5 vs. the Seahawks since their first meeting in 1979; and 1-3 vs. the Rams since their first meeting in 1970.