It wasn’t exactly Joe Namath before Super Bowl III, but Sam Darnold all but predicted greatness from the Jets offense this season.
“If we can get the details right, I think we’ll be hard to beat,” Darnold said Sunday at the end of practice at the Jets training facility in Florham Park.
By details Darnold means fine-tuning an Adam Gase offense that is still building a scheme to take advantage of all of its weapons. It’s an evolving process that adds meaning to the preseason as Darnold and Gase learn the skills of those on his roster.
“That’s where we can really use these preseason games to our advantage,” Darnold said, “really understanding what guys do well. The fact of the matter is when the lights come on, some guys play well. We kind of got a glimpse of that in [the first] preseason game. There were a lot of guys who upped their game when the lights came on and it was good to see. As these preseason games continue we’re going to keep finding guys who play well. With this offense we haven’t found anyone who shies away from the bright lights either. It’s going to be fun and we’re going to continue to go out there and play football.”
Versatile running back Le’Veon Bell didn’t play in the Jets 31-22 loss to the Giants on Thursday night in MetLife Stadium, and the first-team offense was in for just one series. But the Jets are giddy over their seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game and see it as validation they may have something special brewing.
Wide receiver Jamison Crowder was one of those players who upped his game under the lights, catching two of Darnold’s four completions on the scoring drive, including a 3-yard touchdown pass. The Jets also look like they’ll use running back Ty Montgomery in a versatile role and it should get even more interesting when Gase starts to showcase Bell.
Bell has gotten plenty of work in training camp lining up a various positions including at wideout. It’s a weapon Darnold is looking forward to exploiting.
“With him being able to catch the football and run routes, it definitely makes it hard on a defense,” Darnold said. “If a cornerback takes Bell then one of our receivers probably has a good matchup inside. If a linebacker tries to guard Bell, he’s going to have a hard time guarding him. It definitely adds an extra element to our offense.”
Gase has mentioned several times how much “fun” it has been calling plays for this offense. You get the feeling he’s just getting started. He was speaking generally when he outlined the Jets plans for adapting their offensive and defensive schemes to their personnel.
“Even in the preseason we’re going to challenge our guys,” he said. “We’re going to play a lot of man and do a lot of things that’s hard and see where we’re at with those guys.”
Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams are known for their creativity, which is evolving as they learn the skill sets of their players. The receivers are an example. Robby Anderson is the burner; Quincy Enunwa offers a physical presence while Crowder is fearless over the middle.
“That’s tough to defend when you have three different body types and player styles to guard,” Crowder said. “I think we complement each other pretty well.”
Gase praised how Darnold controlled the “tempo” of the offense against the Giants. Getting the play called, getting to the line of scrimmage and getting ready to run a play can put constant pressure on a defense.
“If we can control the tempo we stay on the attack and the defense has to react to us instead of us reacting to what the defense is doing,” Darnold said. “If we just stay on the attack and continue in that good tempo, the defense has to react to us and that makes it hard on them.”
It’s all in the details.