It is only the preseason, so you can’t overreact, but the Jets have shown a nice trend in their first two games.
Sam Darnold and Co. have marched down the field and scored a touchdown on each of their opening drives against the Giants and Falcons.
No big deal?
Well, when you consider the Jets have a 24-game streak in the regular season without scoring a touchdown on their first possession, it should give fans a reason to hope this offense can be different.
“I think starting fast is something we want to get really good at,” Darnold said. “We have been the last two weeks in the preseason.”
The first drive of a game should be when the offense looks its best, theoretically. The group spends the entire week practicing those plays and the offensive coordinator scripts out what he wants to do. But the Jets have been downright dismal early in games.
The last time they had an opening-drive touchdown was Oct. 29, 2017 against the Falcons when Josh McCown hit tight end Eric Tomlinson for a 20-yard touchdown pass. In that span, the Jets have only had three field goals off their opening drives.
In the past two seasons, the Jets have averaged just 4.6 plays per first possession and have had 19 drives of three plays or fewer.
Those early-game struggles have often left the Jets in a hole. Their opponents have scored first in 21 of the 32 games in the last two seasons.
New Jets coach Adam Gase has shown in his first two preseason outings he wants his offense operating at a fast clip. The Jets are a no-huddle attack and have moved down the field quickly against the Giants and Falcons.
“It was good to see guys doing exactly what we worked on since the spring and just seeing it kind of come to life on the field in competition,” Gase said.
The Jets took seven plays to go 75 yards against the Giants. They needed eight plays to go 66 yards against the Falcons to open up the game.
During those drives, Darnold has spread the ball around. Chris Herndon, Jamison Crowder, Ty Montgomery, Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson have all caught passes. Montgomery has mixed in some runs.
“It looks right,” Gase said of Darnold running the offense. “He doesn’t seem to have any complications.”
Against the Falcons, the Jets moved the ball with an offensive line that played four backups.
Gase pointed to this week’s preseason game against the Saints as a bigger test for the offense. Typically in the third preseason game, teams game plan a little more and show a little bit more on defense. Gase expects some challenges on third down.
The biggest word Gase and the offensive players have used about how they are operating is “tempo.” They have been in attack mode.
“I thought the line did a good job with the tempo,” Gase said. “They were getting to the line of scrimmage quick, making the calls, getting set up. Sam did a good job. Receivers, tight ends, running backs, everybody was just, they were working at a really good clip. It makes it really easy to call plays.”
Whether they can keep this going into the regular season and snap that 24-game touchdown-free streak remains to be seen. But the early preseason signs have been encouraging.
“It’s fun,” Darnold said. “It’s fun to be in that offense and keep the defense on their toes. Instead of us sitting back and letting the defense get lined up, they’re kind of scrambling around and not sure where guys are going.”