ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets throws a pass during the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York.
(Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

The New York Jets offense, led by Adam Gase and Sam Darnold, featured a “different” type of stink against the Buffalo Bills.

Robby Sabo

This was Week 1 of the 2020 season. Everything was supposed to be different.

Well, not everything, exactly. The familiarity that is this New York Jets coaching staff returning for its second season was constantly pointed to as a massive advantage courtesy of the most unusual offseason in NFL history. With that leg up, the actual results on the field were expected to contrast with 2019’s.

Oh, well. (In other words, Jets fans feel that familiar pain entering a brand-new workweek.)

The Jets’ 254 yards of total offense cannot dream of telling the story. Without garbage-time work for much of the second half, Adam Gase’s offense put up a complete stinker in Orchard Park on Sunday.

That did not stop the head coach from feeling something “different” about the performance.

“To me, it felt completely different,” Gase told the media after the Jets’ disheartening 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. “This year, it was, either we had a guy open and we missed him. We had a guy open and we dropped it. We had a couple of miscues in the run game, but I felt like calling this game compared to last year was night and day, just with the communication with the players.”

He’s right, no matter the level of identical stink put forth.

Everything said in camp about the offense clicking in its second year and young Sam Darnold taking command of the unit unanimously contrasts with Sunday’s production. Sadly, none of the good August vibes helped Darnold Sunday.

It can be argued that this represents the worst start of his young professional career. Although the “Ghost Game” had its fair share of lows, this one featured a young quarterback missing the mark countless times despite much better help in front of him.

Buffalo sacked Darnold three times in the game, but pressure was not an overwhelming issue—something nobody could say a year ago. Far too often, the third-year quarterback impatiently played the pocket game. Happy feet and poor mechanics blasted through the flat-screens.

No longer can the offensive line be the scapegoat. On this day, Darnold just plain stunk—a much greater concern for the organization.

“We didn’t execute the way that we wanted to, especially in the first half,” Darnold said after the loss. “I put that on my shoulders. I missed way too many throws today. We had opportunities and I just missed guys. We’ve got to look at the tape and see what happened, but I just flat-out missed guys and that’s on me. I’ve got to be better and we’ve got to execute better. It’s as simple as that.”

New York’s first three offensive series featured three-straight three-and-outs.

Darnold missed Chris Herndon short as he flushed out to his right on the first play of the game.

Considering his throw-on-the-run ability is one of his strong suits, such terrible accuracy is alarming. On third down, Darnold missed Jamison Crowder on a comeback route.

Most alarming is the thought Darnold allows his throws to be impacted too greatly when defenders get within a couple of yards of him in the pocket. The Crowder comeback miss is a perfect example of just that.

He’s also preached completion percentage for three seasons (yes, even with Jeremy Bates). A smoke route to Chris Hogan on the second series in a third-and-9 situation may help completion percentage, but asking this receiver to win in a one-on-one situation is a tough ask.

In the end, the Bills rushed just five. Darnold made the wrong decision.

Before the half (as seen the above video), the Jets were inside the 20 with no timeouts and 18 seconds remaining. Facing an all-out pressure, Darnold opted for the wide receiver screen.

If Darnold hangs on to it a touch longer, the interior offensive linemen get out quicker and the Bills’ field-side edge rushes the passer, it’s a touchdown. Darnold’s decision-making was also flawed in Orchard Park, and this play is included in the pile—no matter how tough it is to ask a receiver to win one-on-one in the end zone against a defensive back giving 10-15 yards cushion.

“Yeah, they were bringing pressure so I had to get the ball out,” Darnold said. “Hindsight, if we look at the tape we might say that we want to do something different, but that’s what I thought in the moment, so I did it. But I knew we’d have to slow kill it and execute the field goal, so that was kind of my thought process in the moment.”

Whether it was accuracy or decision-making issues, nothing worked for Darnold (other than one two-minute drive). A big miss to Breshad Perriman in the third series yet again showcased Darnold’s accuracy problem Sunday afternoon.

Darnold even threw an inexcusable interception, one that saw him flush left and throw against his body towards the middle of the field.

“That one, he’s (Darnold) going to see that one,” Gase said. “Anytime you’re moving to the left and you throw to the middle of the field, that’s not ideal. You don’t want to do that.”

The team film room session this Monday won’t be a fun one for No. 14, but Gase and the offensive coaching staff must figure it out. Where exactly does the team go from here?

“I have to watch the film,” is how Gase answered Darnold’s struggles. “There were a couple of things – especially early in the game – we were just off with some of the details of what we were calling and what we were doing. We didn’t do a couple of things that looked really poor for him. He missed some throws that we’ve seen him make and he made later in the game. I really have to go look at this.”

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At the very least, Gase is right about the topic at hand. This offensive unit definitely feels “different” when compared to last year’s. It’s just that the Jets offense put up the same level of stink fans recognize.

And, oh yeah, this “different” features a hopeful franchise quarterback regressing to square one. Perhaps this “different” is not the most ideal.

Joe Douglas found a way to improve the offensive line in one season. For once, shockingly, that’s not the problem.

Can Adam Gase do the same for Sam Darnold’s game? It does not matter how “different” it feels. Results are all that matter now.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, developer and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor | Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (sold in 2020). SEO: XLM Email: robby.sabo[at]jetsxfactor.com
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