It wasn’t as obvious as Sam Darnold throwing a touchdown pass or the Jets’ defense causing a turnover. It was much more subtle than that, but very telling.
Perhaps the most promising takeaway from the Jets’ preseason opener against the Giants on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium wasn’t the performance of any one player, but the simple fact the Jets are finally all about football and trying to win.
It sounds basic, but it’s something that has eluded this franchise in recent years. Since the Rex Ryan AFC Championship Game seasons, there have always been issues hovering over the Jets as they headed into a season. Whether it was a quarterback controversy; a quarterback getting punched in the face in the locker room; a coach on the hot seat; or trying to “Suck for Sam,” the subplots seemed to ultimately undermine any progress.
There is none of that this year. There is no quarterback controversy, no coach on the hot-seat, no reason for anybody to look over their shoulders. The circus has finally left Florham Park.
Sure that could be a rush to judgment. But despite a 31-22 loss to the Giants, the Jets might finally have achieved the stability they so desperately have needed. Their debut under new head coach Adam Gase offered mostly positive signs.
The Jets’ ability to score on their opening series against the Giants’ first-team defense not only showcased Darnold’s progress, but also Gase’s ability to script a series that can get his team into the end zone.
Darnold, entering his second season, was 4-of-5 for 68 yards on his only series of the game, finishing the seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder.
“I thought it was huge for us,” Crowder said. “It was a good way to start the preseason. We’ve put a lot of work in during training camp. Now we have a good foundation to build upon as we continue training camp and the preseason games.”
Forgotten was the performance of the Jets’ first-team defense, which forced a three-and-out on the Giants’ first offensive series. Eli Manning completed a pass for 3 yards on first down before Wayne Gallman managed just 1 total yard on two carries.
“The defense getting three-and-out was what we were hoping for,” Gase said. “I don’t want to grind those guys. I just wanted them to hear Gregg [Williams] call it and the communication. Through the rest of the game there was a lot of good stuff with the young guys and a lot of stuff we have to improve on.”
Gase looks comfortable in his own skin. The job isn’t too big for him. The wide-eyed look at his introductory press conference is actually a quiet confidence that allows him to move easily among his players and coaching staff. He’s relaxed and insightful with the media and appears perfectly adaptable to working with Williams, who is in charge of the defense.
Williams is much more of vocal personality from yelling at his players to engaging in conversation with fans attending camp. But Gase doesn’t look threatened and is happy to focus solely on the offense. He figures to be far more creative when Le’Veon Bell, who sat out Thursday’s game, is in the back field.
Crowder seems a solid acquisition, while tight end Chris Herndon is having a good camp and receiver Robby Anderson is poised to have a big year.
“We have so many great weapons on our team and our offense and coach Gase is going to utilize them as only he knows how,” Darnold said.
Depth has to be developed. The Jets’ defense gave up plays of 51, 39, 31 and 31 yards. Two of those big plays went for touchdowns. Overall, the Giants outgained the Jets in net yardage 414 to 286.
“We have a really good offensive staff and I know our defense does as well,” Darnold said. “I think we’re going to learn a ton.”
Finally, it all about football for the Jets.
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