JACKSONVILLE — Two hours before kickoff, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was mocked in the sky above TIAA Bank Field. A plane circled the stadium with a banner that read: “Gardner Minshew ain’t afraid of no ghost!”
With a chance to shut up his critics, Darnold was outplayed by Minshew and experienced a daytime nightmare Sunday, throwing three interceptions and getting sacked eight times in a 29-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That makes seven interceptions in the past two games.
Yes, it’s time to worry about Darnold, who became the butt of jokes. At the two-minute warning, the stadium played the “Ghostbusters” theme song and showed Darnold’s interceptions on the big screen.
No one knows if he saw ghosts again, but Darnold definitely saw Calais Campbell and Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue and … you get the picture. He was undermined by an offensive line that continues to embarrass itself on a weekly basis.
The Jets, who dropped to 1-6, have allowed 34 sacks. Can general manager Joe Douglas trade for an entire offensive line before Tuesday’s deadline?
Darnold showed plenty of poise on the opening drive, leading a 93-yard touchdown drive — the team’s first opening-drive touchdown in 31 games. The Jaguars adjusted, the Jets didn’t. The Jaguars tightened up their coverage and eliminated Darnold’s quick throws, and the entire offense self-destructed.
Coach Adam Gase, whose offense has exceeded 16 points in only one game, had very few answers. He was outcoached — again.
Showing resilience, Darnold cut the deficit to 22-15 with his second touchdown pass to tight end Ryan Griffin, but he was intercepted with under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter — a poorly thrown deep ball from deep his own territory. A few minutes later, he was picked off again.
Darnold didn’t look as rattled as he was last week, so, yes, he made progress — barely. He actually threw for more yards on the opening possession (88) than he did last week, but he didn’t fare well against pressure. He managed only 113 for the rest of the game. The offense is broken, and it’s affecting their quarterback’s development. That’s a scary proposition for the franchise, which has pinned its future to him.
Troubling trend: Unofficially, rookie left tackle Chuma Edoga allowed 3.5 sacks. It was only his second career start at the position — he replaced the injured Kelvin Beachum — and it showed. The question is, why didn’t Gase give him help with a tight end? Once again, the Jets struggled with the blitz, as four of the seven sacks came against five or more rushers, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Clearly, Douglas needs to take a wrecking ball to the offensive line in the offseason.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Jets had big problems with Minshew, who passed for 279 yards and three touchdowns. It’s one thing to get picked apart by Tom Brady (see: last Monday night), but a rookie quarterback? The Jets committed far too many breakdowns, resulting in a 70-yard touchdown pass and a 66-yard run — the first time since 2017 they allowed a 60-yard pass and a 60-yard run in the same game.
Surprisingly, one of the culprits was safety Jamal Adams, who was the nearest defender on two touchdown passes, dropped a would-be interception and committed two personal-foul penalties — a rare bad day. A was a bad day for defensive coordinator for Gregg Williams, who was a step behind with his playcalling.
Biggest hole in the game plan, Part II: Once again, the Jets misused running back Le’Veon Bell. Their best player on offense had only 12 touches — nine carries for 23 yards and three catches for 12 yards. Facing the league’s 21st-ranked run defense, Bell should’ve been able to dominate. Curiously, he was forgotten for long stretches.
Bold prediction for next week: Prepare for ugly ball. The Jets and Miami Dolphins (0-7) might be the two worst offensive teams in the NFL. This is a huge game for Gase, who was fired by the Dolphins. If he loses for his former team … oh, my.