Never say things can’t get any worse. They can always get worse.
Just ask the New York Jets. They’re down their top two quarterbacks due to illness (Sam Darnold) and injury (Trevor Siemian), with several more key contributors limited or missing practice time. They’re 0-2 after a dismal 23-3 loss at home to the Cleveland Browns on "Monday Night Football." Jamal Adams, arguably the team’s best player, is silently protesting the team by unfollowing them on social media and openly fuming at the NFL for fining him due to a hit on Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield.
After all that, Gang Green on Sunday afternoon must travel to Massachusetts for its annual road date with the New England Patriots. When the Pats come to MetLife Stadium, the Jets often put forth a spirited effort in defending their home turf. When they have to visit Gillette Stadium, on the other hand, it gets ugly. The Jets are 3-13 since 2003 in Foxborough and haven’t won up there since 2011. The combined scored of the most recent three games there comes out to 105-12. The last time the Jets even scored a road touchdown in this rivalry came about four years ago.
Maybe Jets fans should find something less excruciating to do this Sunday afternoon.
Let’s not pretend this is a very winnable matchup for the Jets. Instead, lets focus on three things to watch for, win or lose, from the struggling team.
Can Bell get going?
Le’Veon Bell leads the NFL with 54 touches through two weeks. Two years ago, before he sat out 2018 in a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he led the league with 406 combined rush attempts and receptions.
Bell is involved, but he’s not doing enough with his opportunities. His yards per carry are down to 3.4, nearly a yard under his career average. His 16 receptions have produced just 93 yards. None of his touches has gone for more than 17 yards.
No reasonable observer can put all that on Bell himself, but someone as talented as he believes he is must find a way to carry the load more effectively. Without the big plays he should be able to provide, the Jets won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
What the Falk?
Many a Jets fan either said or thought something that sounds similar to this when Siemian, filling in for Darnold as he battles mononucleosis, saw his season end after six pass attempts when he suffered a gruesome ankle injury Monday.
The Jets turned to third-stringer Luke Falk, a 2018 sixth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans, who proceeded to acquit himself quite nicely by completing 20 of 25 passes for 198 yards. That said, expectations for a player who ostensibly is not one of the 60 best quarterbacks in the NFL aren’t high, and he didn’t lead any touchdown drives.
Falk, who reportedly is a massive Tom Brady fanboy, can only hope to absorb something from the legendary Patriots’ quarterback through osmosis this weekend. He might run into the same issues as Bell will against the NFL’s current top-ranked defense.
The Jets need to find a way to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. They’re not going to face Cleveland’s porous offensive line each week, ya know. Even then, they collectively brought down Mayfield only three times in 38 dropbacks.
Blitzing Brady is never the answer. The man thrives with fewer obstacles in the defensive backfield. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams won’t like it, but it’s true.
Regardless, the defensive front must make life tougher on Brady this week and opposing quarterbacks in general throughout this campaign. Leonard Williams needs to realize his potential as a former top-10 pick and one-time Pro Bowl selection. Henry Anderson must prove that last year’s seven sacks weren’t a fluke. And they’ll likely have to do again it without 2019’s No. 3 overall pick, Quinnen Williams, who has yet to impact the stat sheet and missed Monday’s loss with an ankle injury.
Patriots 38, Jets 10