PHILADELPHIA — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets (0-3):
1. Mono y mono: If there’s one person on this planet who knows exactly what Sam Darnold has experienced over the past few weeks, it’s Chris Chandler. Until Darnold, he was the only known case of a quarterback with mononucleosis. He contracted the illness in 1995, when he started for the Houston Oilers.
“I really hope he errs on the side of safety and caution,” Chandler said by phone from his home in Utah. “He’s so young and has such a long career ahead of him that I’d hate for this to flare up again or have something bad come out of it because of the spleen [issue]. Your internal organs are nothing to mess around with.”
On Friday, Darnold was ruled out for a third straight game, meaning Luke Falk starts against the Philadelphia Eagles (1 p.m. ET, CBS). There’s no guarantee Darnold will play next week. Once again, it will hinge on his lab tests. Even though he claims he’s fine, he will sit again if his spleen remains enlarged. Mother Nature is calling the shots here.
“I’m telling you, mono is serious, it’s legit,” Chandler said. “It’ll take over your body and you’re out of commission. You’ll have no energy, you’ll be lethargic and it’ll cloud your thoughts, which isn’t a good thing for a quarterback.”
Chandler had mono late in the ’95 season. He actually played with the symptoms for two games before he was diagnosed, recalling he had to come out of a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. When he got to the locker room at the old Three Rivers Stadium, “I laid down on a concrete floor, put a towel under my head and fell asleep.”
The following week, against the Detroit Lions, Chandler was removed early because he was “exhausted and tired beyond belief.” His throat was swollen and he had lost weight. He kept pushing himself to play because the Oilers had a hot-shot rookie, a kid named Steve McNair, and he didn’t want to lose his job. At that point, he was unable to play and missed the final two games. He said it took him another four or five weeks before he felt normal again.
Chandler, 53, a former University of Washington standout who enjoyed a 17-year career, wishes the best for Darnold. His advice: Listen to your body and, more importantly, listen to the medical staff. Chandler has seen Darnold’s clips on highlight shows and knows his reputation through his Pac-12 connections.
“I love what he has on his shoulders; he’s the opposite of the guy in Cleveland,” said Chandler, referring to Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. “[Darnold] is more my cup of tea, more my taste. It’s not me, me, me. It’s team, team, team.”
2. New digs for Diggs? The trade rumors surrounding disgruntled Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs will, no doubt, pique the interest of Jets’ fans. I mean, who wouldn’t want a 25-year-old player with a glittering résumé and a contract through 2023? But here’s the problem: The Vikings can’t possibly trade him for less than a first-round pick, and it would be foolish for the Jets to part with theirs. After all, it could be a top-10 pick.
Sorry to be a wet blanket, folks, but that’s the reality.
3. Philly Special, via Jets’ O-coordinator: The Jets’ sideline will include a coach who, in an indirect way, played a small role in the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl championship — offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
After defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich credited Loggains with the design of the “Philly Special,” the gimmick play that resulted in a touchdown and became the most famous play in Eagles history. Reich said he copied it from the Chicago Bears, who ran it successfully at the end of the 2016 season. Loggains was the Bears’ offensive coordinator.
I asked Loggains about it this week. Instead of taking a bow, he deflected the praise.
“I would love to say, ‘Yeah, we created it, that was awesome, the Eagles took it,’ but there are very few original ideas,” he said. “It has been passed down.”
Loggains said the first time he saw the play was 2014, run by Southlake Carroll High School in Texas. A Cleveland Browns assistant at the time, he showed the play to coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who responded: “That’s crazy.” The next year, Loggains met up with Adam Gase in Chicago, and they put it in the playbook. They dubbed it “Clemson Special” because the Tigers had used it, but they never got around to calling it in a game.
Gase was gone by the time the Bears sprang it on the Vikings in 2016 (tight end Cameron Meredith to quarterback Matt Barkley for a TD), but the Gase-Loggains combo actually used it successfully last season for the Miami Dolphins.
Asked how it felt to see it work for the Eagles in the Super Bowl, with quarterback Nick Foles catching a TD pass, Loggains cracked, “It was a much more relevant game than when we called it. It takes some stones to call it. You have to have the right people because there are so many exchanges of the ball. You have to trust your guys.”
Philly fans should give him a round of applause.
4. Fault line: One of the big stories Sunday will be the underachieving offensive line, which did some serious soul-searching during the bye week. Center Ryan Kalil said the group took a “hard look” at itself in an attempt to fix what he described as a “disconnect.”
Kalil explained the inconsistency this way: “A lot of it is just coming from guys not really either understanding what they’re doing or what’s being asked of us. That’s on the players. It’s not the scheme.”
Look for personnel changes against the Eagles. Guard Alex Lewis and Tom Compton saw increased practice reps, with Lewis expected to start at left guard for the injured Kelechi Osemele. Rookie right tackle Chuma Edoga got the bulk of the practice reps, an indication he will start for Brandon Shell, who had a bad game against the Patriots.
5. Hat tricks, good and bad: With the fourth pick in the third round, the Jets drafted pass-rusher Jachai Polite. Nine picks later, the Patriots selected pass-rusher Chase Winovich. I questioned the Jets’ decision at the time, so this isn’t a second-guess. Anyway, here’s an update:
Winovich: Three sacks (leads all rookies).
6. Bell’s toll: At his current pace, Le’Veon Bell will finish with 299 rushing attempts, second only to his 321-carry season in 2017. Are the Jets overworking their No. 1 running back? He doesn’t think so.
“I just sat out a whole year,” Bell said.
He did so, in part, because he was concerned about the Steelers running him into the ground, which would have hurt his value on the open market. Now that he has a $28 million guarantee, he’s not concerned about wear and tear.
The reality is that the Jets need to ride him until Darnold returns and they can establish some semblance of a passing attack. It’s too soon to drive the “overworked” train.
7. Did you know? Gase was hired because of his acumen as an offensive coach, but the Dolphins hit the 30-point mark in back-to-back games only once in three seasons as the Miami coach.
8. NFL Next Gen Stat of the Week: The Jets lead the league with the highest rate of “open” targets — 55.9 percent. (An open target is a pass target when the separation between the receiver and nearest defender is three-plus yards at pass arrival.) Despite this, the Jets are averaging a league-low 131 passing yards per game. It isn’t difficult to figure out what’s happening there.
9. Unsung hero: There haven’t been too many positives in this winless season, but one of them is nickelback Brian Poole, who is doing a nice job in the slot. Through Week 4, he had the highest grade in the league among cornerbacks, per Pro Football Focus.
10. The last word: “My beach is in front of that iron. That’s my beach. I’m built different.” — nose tackle Steve McLendon on why he chose to work out in the weight room during the bye week instead of escaping to a tropical resort.