The Jacksonville Jaguars have a chance to make it back to .500 this week, but the only thing standing in the way of that feat is a struggling New York Jets team.
This is the third season in a row the AFC foes are facing off, with each team winning one of the previous two. The Jags lead the all-time series 7-6.
Let’s get some details on the 2019 version of the Jets. I linked up with MacGregor Wells of Gang Green Nation — SB Nation’s leading source for all things New York Jets — to discuss this weekend’s opponent. Here are his thoughts below:
1. Let’s start with the obvious. After returning from injury, Sam Darnold lit the Dallas Cowboys up. Then this past week against the New England Patriots, Darnold had an abysmal performance on national television. Where do you stand with Darnold as the future of this Jets team, and what has the general fan consensus been? Do you see improvement coming?
MacGregor: OK, three parts to this question.
Where do I stand on Darnold? Call me an agnostic. Some things he does are high level stuff that can’t be taught. He does a great job maneuvering in the pocket, sensing pressure, extending plays and throwing on the run. He’s able at times to make great sophisticated pre and post snap reads, maneuver the safety with his eyes, and make some great throws, plays that are beyond the abilities of most young quarterbacks. He’s got an excellent, even-keeled temperament, perfect for riding out the storm of NY media coverage. He appears to be a hard worker and a football junkie. He’s got a good, not great, arm. He struggles with accuracy on mid-level and long throws. His mechanics are all over the place, a real mess at times. He has at times shown the capability of carrying an offense, while at other times he’s been absolutely atrocious, beyond run of the mill young quarterback struggles. He turns the ball over too much, even for a young QB. Statistically he has performed over his first 16 games at a pretty low level relative to NFL average, even for rookies. Quarterbacks who have performed at similar levels through their first 16 games in general have a very poor track record of panning out. I don’t know, this is a tough call. There are things I love about this quarterback and things that are very, very concerning. So I find myself in wait and see mode. I think the next six games after the Jets – Jaguars game will be very telling. Those six pass defenses are, collectively, terrible. If Darnold can’t look consistently good to excellent over that stretch I will move more to the he’s not gonna work out side. For now I’m agnostic.
What is the general fan consensus on Darnold? I’m not sure there is much of a consensus. There are three main camps. Some are fairly certain he will end up being a top tier NFL quarterback. Some are fairly certain he will be a bust. And some are in wait and see mode. I think the camps are fairly evenly split.
Do I see improvement coming? Well, like I said, after Jacksonville the next six pass defenses are pretty bad. Improvement appears to be all but baked into the schedule. It is fair to wonder, if Darnold does improve dramatically over that stretch, how much is Darnold actually improving and how much is the weakness of the schedule? On the other hand, if Darnold shows little improvement against that schedule, it will be very, very concerning.
2. Le’Veon Bell was a shiny new offensive piece for the Jets this offseason, but has struggled to get going. He averages just 3.3 yards per carry and 54.3 yards per game, while scoring one rushing touchdown so far. As a team, the Jets rank 30th in rushing yards, averaging just 66.8 yards per game. Would you blame the struggles in the running game on Darnold missing time, the offensive line, Bell taking a year off last season, scheme, all of the above, or something else completely?
MacGregor: The struggles of Bell are almost completely caused by the Jets having the worst offensive line in the NFL. His yardage is well over 90 percent gained after being hit behind the line of scrimmage. Bell has been everything the Jets thought they were getting. He is playing very well. But nobody can produce good statistics behind this pathetic excuse for an offensive line.
3. New York has some young, talented players on defense, such as Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Quinnen Williams and C.J. Mosley. (who is a little bit older than the others mentioned). The Jets rank a respectable 14th in the NFL in terms of total yardage, and have shut down the run nicely, ranking 11th in that regard. The unit has a struggled a bit against the pass, though, ranking 24th. What does the defense do specifically well, and what would you like to see the unit improve upon?
MacGregor: The Jets do very well shutting down the run, particularly between the tackles. The Jets also have done a surprisingly decent job of limiting damage in the passing game. This is a relative concept; by no means do the Jets have a top pass defense. But the Jets have done a pretty decent job compensating for one of the worst set of cornerbacks in the NFL. The two outside cornerbacks, Daryl Roberts and Trumaine Johnson, don’t belong starting in the NFL. Johnson doesn’t even belong on an NFL roster, and probably wouldn’t be but for his enormous amount of guaranteed money. Despite the deficiencies in the defensive backfield, the Jets haven’t been completely overwhelmed by opposing quarterbacks, though nobody would call this a good pass defense. It’s well below average, but better than the terrible I expected. One of the biggest problems in the pass defense is the Jets don’t really have any starting quality pass rushers. The Jets do a really poor job getting pressure on the opposing quarterback with a base four man rush. The only way the Jets can generate pressure is with blitz packages, but they haven’t been all that effective either, and they leave a bad secondary exposed. Bottom line, pretty much every aspect of the Jets pass defense, other than the two excellent safeties, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, is well below average.
4. Seven games into his tenure, what are your thoughts on Adam Gase and his coaching staff thus far?
MacGregor: I mean, I’m not sure the language I want to use here is appropriate. Adam Gase … $%$@#$%&#@**. Adam Gase appears to be one of the worst offensive minds in the NFL. He has put together an offense so bad it is worse than even the Miami Tankin’ Dolphins. It is an offense so bad that if the Jets were to go through the rest of the season operating at the offensive level of the current best offense in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jets would still finish the year at just about an average NFL offense. This offense is so bad that through the first four games of the season the Jets defense had literally outscored the Jets offense. This offense is so bad it has scored in just four out of the 24 quarters the Jets have played thus far. It is so bad the Jets offense has scored 17 points in the second half all year long. It is so bad that literally every player on the offense has underperformed compared to their career levels. It is so bad the Jets offense has averaged less than seven points a game through six games (not counting points scored by the defense). This is literally the worst offense in 60 years of Jets history chock-full of bad offenses. It is woefully, comically, depressingly, epically, historically awful, and Adam Gase is the man responsible.
5. Are there any specific matchups you are interested to watch between the Jets and Jaguars on Sunday?
I’m interested in how Sam Darnold responds after his meltdown last week. Key matchups for this will be the Jets awful offensive line versus a very good Jaguars defensive line. If the Jets offensive line is overwhelmed Darnold won’t have much of a chance at redemption. If, on the other hand, the Jets defy the odds and give Darnold decent protection, Jets fans need to see Darnold bounce back big time this week. I also think how the Jets are able to handle D.J. Chark will go a long way to determining the outcome of this game. I don’t think the Jets have a cornerback on the roster that can handle Chark. If they surprise me and keep Chark contained, while limiting the damage Fournette does on the ground, the Jets will have a shot. If not, it will be all Jaguars.
Bonus: Score prediction?
MacGregor: Jaguars 23, Jets 13
Thank you to MacGregor for his valuable insights. Be sure to follow Gang Green Nation on Twitter for more of his work, and for updates on the Jets.
Check out my crossover piece on Gang Green Nation here.