The New York Jets ended the Cleveland Browns win drought tonight by blowing a 14-0 lead on the road to rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield (it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that he looked good), who relieved Tyrod Taylor after a second quarter injury. Like many Thursday Night games, this was an ugly, sloppy one at times but the Jets looked gassed, unprepared and lackadaisical after taking their early lead. This season is about Sam Darnold’s development more than anything else and tonight was a rough patch in that learning curve as he struggled throughout the game, while also concurrently being let down by his supporting cast. The defense started fast but faded down the stretch and was bullied with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
Darnold finished 15/31 for 169 yards with 2 interceptions, both in the fourth quarter. Let’s remove the apologist card from the top: he played poorly tonight, looked a little rattled by Cleveland’s pass rush and was inaccurate for long stretches of the game. Yes, he played three games in eleven days and was facing a good defense on the road with a shaky offensive line and a clueless offensive game plan but that doesn’t remove the reality of how he played tonight.
As for that game plan? Jeremy Bates should have to walk back from Cleveland for a dismal strategy that regularly booted Darnold into unblocked Browns defenders, repeatedly went to the same ineffective plays and was extremely conservative. Bates has not been a play caller prior to this season for nearly a decade and it showed tonight.
The Jets supporting cast outside of Quincy Enunwa and Bilal Powell (surprise!) did not show up tonight. Robby Anderson has been abysmal to start this season and lost a fumble for the second week in a row. Terrelle Pryor looks like a quarterback trying to run wide receiver routes. Chris Herndon and Jordan Leggett are not ready for extended NFL playing time (who would have thought Neal Sterling would be missed so badly?) and the offensive line can’t let a series pass without a false start or an unblocked defender getting a run at Darnold.
On the defensive side, this was a strong outing through three quarters but one that gradually fell apart with the game on the line. Leonard Williams did not register a stat tonight. Jets fans like to act like he is an All-Pro player but it simply isn’t the case. Myles Garrett is an All-Pro player. Williams is a good starter, who occasionally disappears. Elsewhere, the Jets racked up 4 sacks on Tyrod Taylor but couldn’t get to Mayfield. They also continued to rack up a mix of stupid (Trumaine Johnson) and brutally timed (Morris Claiborne) penalties. This cornerback group has been a disappointment to start the season, especially considering what they are being paid. The Jets were unable to force any turnovers tonight.
People (understandably!) got overly excited after a dominant week one win but there is a reason most people picked this team to win 6 or 7 games in 2018. This is a roster that is still full of holes (thanks to years of shaky drafting) and a coaching staff that has not proven itself to be above mediocre and ludicrously conservative.
There will be much hysteria the next 10 days but this season will have peaks and valleys, particularly for Darnold.