A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. The path to Trevor: At 0-4, it’s not a stretch to start speculating about the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Actually, the Jets have a league-high 30% chance of landing the pick, according to a projection by ESPN’s Football Power Index. It sets up a fascinating discussion:
Douglas has spoken highly of Darnold since taking the GM job — and it’s not lip service. In a new book by former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, who does a deep dive into the QB Class of 2018, Douglas is quoted as saying, “Sam Darnold was the number one QB on our board in Philly. We did not interview him but did more of a clinical evaluation.”
The Philadelphia Eagles weren’t in the quarterback market, but Douglas, who ran their draft, did his homework on the top passers that season and rated Darnold above Baker Mayfield (Cleveland), Josh Allen (Buffalo), Josh Rosen (Tampa Bay) and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore). Douglas confided in Billick because he knows him from their time together in Baltimore.
The question is: Will Douglas have the same conviction at the end of the season? Darnold has been inconsistent, alternately flashing big-time ability with questionable decision-making and hesitancy in the pocket. The lack of infrastructure has hurt his development — blame the organization for that — and that complicates the decision if the Jets land the top pick.
Realistically, it’s hard to imagine Douglas passing on Lawrence, who is regarded by many as a generational talent. Also, as Billick noted in his book, “The Q Factor: The Elusive Search For The Next Great NFL Quarterback,” Douglas isn’t personally invested in Darnold. He didn’t draft him.
“He liked Sam Darnold [in 2018]… Will that change in the crucible of the NFL right now? That’s for Joe to decide over the next couple of months,” Billick told ESPN. “Do they make a change? Do they keep Sam Darnold and make a change in coaching? Or do they stay with the entire package and think he’s going to get better people around him?”
The legendary Bill Walsh, one of Billick’s mentors, had a philosophy about quarterbacks: If they don’t show it in the first 25 starts, they never show it. Darnold has 30 starts, with a mediocre touchdown-interception ratio (39-32).
Billick doesn’t seem that high on Darnold. In the book, which covers the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he says Darnold “doesn’t seem to do anything special.” After watching three games this season, Billick said Darnold is “kind of stuck in neutral.” And the sense I get is he doesn’t believe coach Adam Gase can bring the best out of Darnold.
If the Jets keep losing, it’ll be up to Billick’s old friend from Baltimore to make a franchise-altering decision.
2. Did you know? If the Jets give up on Darnold three years after drafting him, it would be the second-quickest hook in history, so to speak — the time between picking a first-round quarterback after taking one in the top five. The old Baltimore Colts did it in 1982-83, with Art Schlichter and John Elway, respectively. The Arizona Cardinals did something similar in 2018-19 with Rosen and Kyler Murray, but Rosen was the 10th overall pick.
3. 0-16? They Jets fell to the previously winless Denver Broncos, which begs the question: Whom can they beat? They’re not favored to win any of their remaining games, according to a projection by ESPN’s FPI. The Jets’ best chance is a 44% probability to win their Week 12 home game against the Miami Dolphins — Gase Bowl IV. If you really, really must know, the Jets have a league-high 1.7% chance of losing out.
4. Roughing it: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams received a lot of well-deserved praise for the work he did last season. This season, it looks like he’s out of answers. He’s afraid to blitz because he doesn’t trust his cornerbacks, so he’s playing more zone than usual. If you play zone, the players have to tackle — and the Jets are having serious issues in that department. The most disturbing trend, though, is the lack of discipline.
The defense was charged with eight accepted penalties in the Jets’ loss Thursday night, the most by a team this season. The previous high was seven … set by the Jets in Week 1. The Jets already have been flagged for seven roughing-the-passer penalties, four more than the next team.
They haven’t ignored the problem. After the second game, when defensive end Henry Anderson got flagged, the entire team was shown cut-ups of every roughing penalty in the league. Gase has made it a point of emphasis, and he said Williams followed up in defensive meetings.
But it continues to happen. Williams likes to say he preaches two tempos — walk-through and “go.” Seems that his players surpass “go” too many times.
Without collecting $200 (old Monopoly joke).
5. Closer look: Gase caught some flak for calling a wheel route to running back Frank Gore on a third-and-4 from the Denver 14 — incomplete. Actually, that wasn’t the call. Darnold was supposed to look for wide receiver Chris Hogan, who was wide open over the middle at the 10. It would have been an easy first down. At times, Darnold still doesn’t see the field as well as he should.
Damien Woody is fed up with the New York football scene as both the Jets and Giants are winless to start the season.
6. Trash-to-treasure: Douglas’ first priority in the offseason was to rip apart the offensive line, which was a mess last season due to ineffectiveness and injuries. All five opening-day starters are gone — one in retirement (Ryan Kalil) and four scattered across the league.
Don’t look now, but those four are starting for winning teams:
Tackle Kelvin Beachum, Cardinals (2-1).
I’m not second-guessing Douglas’ plan; anybody who watched the Jets last season could see they absolutely needed an overhaul. But this highlights the importance of scheme fit, coaching and culture. You know the old saying: One team’s trash is another team’s treasure. Successful organizations have a way of finding those treasures.
7. Big hurt: The latest suspicious injury situation involves left tackle Mekhi Becton, who has a capsule injury in his left shoulder, a source said. He wasn’t supposed to play Thursday night but was inserted when Chuma Edoga went down after four plays. Gase said there was no risk for further injury, that it was a pain-tolerance issue. Why take the chance with your best young player? Why take the chance with any player?
Under Gase, the Jets have had a handful of controversial injuries — Osemele, linebacker Avery Williamson and running back Le’Veon Bell, to name three. Gase accepted culpability for the latter two. How he handles Darnold’s shoulder injury will be watched, no doubt.
8. What spending freeze? A few months ago, the buzz around the league was how teams were reluctant to spend big money because of salary-cap uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This factored into the Jets’ thinking for not wanting to give safety Jamal Adams a long-term extension — or so they claimed.
As it turned out, it hasn’t stopped the spending.
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey became the sixth first-round pick from Adams’ 2017 draft class to sign an extension. The others are Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White.
Teams usually find a way to keep their best players.
9. The last word: “Fracturing is not an option” — Gase on what he told the team the day after its crushing loss to Denver.