JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2018 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Jets senior reporter and team insider Eric Allen on the Jets as they enter Sunday's game against the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Question: The Jets are 1-2 entering Sunday with a victory over the Detroit Lions in Week 1 followed by losses to the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns. So, where is this team after two games? How do the Jets see themselves?
Answer: The Jets played complementary football against Detroit; they got touchdowns in all three phases and [Head Coach] Todd Bowles said, "Hey, outstanding team game, but we have to turn the page." Unfortunately, they followed Week 1 with a pair of losses and each defeat has been a different script. Against Miami it was early turnovers and a battle of field position they were ultimately losing in the first half that put them at a 20-0 deficit; it's tough to come back in the NFL from that kind of hole. Conversely, against a much-improved Cleveland team on a short week the Jets took the proper approach. They said, "We don't see (in the Browns) a winless team; we see a good team." They got off to a 14-0 lead, but the tenor of the game changed when [Browns rookie quarterback] Baker Mayfield came in late in the first half. [Jets rookie quarterback] Sam Darnold has done a lot of good things early, but the offense wasn't able to get going [against Cleveland]. It hasn't been able to get going each of the last two weeks. He passed for 334 yards against Miami in Week 2, but you were in throw-from-behind mode. Against Cleveland, the Jets were doing fine in terms of the line of scrimmage early, but they couldn't get any mojo offensively down the stretch.
Q: The Jets selected Darnold No. 3 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has started three games. What are your thoughts on him so far?
A: Everybody in the organization has been very impressed with Sam Darnold since Day 1. He had a nightmare start. You couldn't have written anything more dramatic for a horror movie than your first play in the National Football League being a pass returned for a touchdown [against Detroit]. [Jets Chief Executive Officer] Christopher Johnson said he was going to the owner's box at Ford Field in Detroit and he could hear the roar of the crowd. But he (Darnold) came back and completed 16 of his next 20 passes for 198 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Against Miami, it was the turnovers that did the Jets in. Against Cleveland he (Darnold) said after the game, "I have to be more decisive with my reads. I have to trust what I'm seeing a little more." If you're looking at his three performances, the Cleveland game was the one stood out as, "OK, he's experiencing some bumps in the road here." He has been unflappable. His approach has been good. He has owned the playbook. The coaching staff has said from Day One that the guy gets better when the lights get brighter. This minibreak (since a Week 3 Thursday loss to Cleveland) will be good for him. It's tough for veteran players to play three games in 11 days, much less a rookie quarterback in the National Football League. So, I think he'll be able to take a step back and review some of the things he was doing and what was happening offensively. But all in all, he's off to a good start. The Jets are encouraged with where he's at.
Q: What do the Jets want to be offensively?
A: They promoted Jeremy Bates to offensive coordinator because of his commitment to the run. He did great things with [quarterback] Josh McCown last year. McCown had a career year, but Bowles has said from the beginning that he's always going to come back to run. What the Jets want offensively is a balanced approach. When they're moving the football well – like they did against Detroit – they get it done on the ground and in the air. They got the run game going against Cleveland in the first half; you didn't see too much of it in the second half. Darnold's No. 1 target far and away is [wide receiver] Quincy Enunwa. The next step for the passing game is to get [wide receiver] Jermaine Kearse going and to get [wide receiver] Robby Anderson going as well. The Jets run a West Coast system. They're going to try to stretch you out and move you laterally and their two running backs (Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell) can really explode through the hole. The passing game? A work in progress right now.
Q: The Jets were a good defensive team last season. Are they as good now?
A: They're better. You added [cornerback] Trumaine Johnson to the mix (as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason); he's a monstrous cornerback, one of the biggest in the league. He brings swag and attitude back there. The Jets re-signed [cornerback] Morris Claiborne, and [safety] Jamal Adams is off to a good start in his second year; he's diagnosing quicker, plays with his hair on fire and I think he's going to be a very good player in this league. If you're a Jets fan, you're encouraged by the pass rush. It wasn't there in the second half against the Browns, but they had eight sacks the last two weeks. [Defensive lineman] Henry Anderson has given them some pass rush ability, and [outside linebacker] Brandon Copeland has given them speed and athleticism from the outside. The coverage in the back end is a lot better. The Jets are faster and more athletic on defense than they have been in the past.
Q: What do the Jets have to do be good the rest of the season?
A: Defensively, they're better – so I think they're going to beat a lot of teams. For the Jets to take the next step, they cannot lose the turnover battle. We have seen that the last couple of weeks. And they have to have balance offensively. If you have balance offensively, you have enough pieces where you're going to be able to move the football. Defensively, the Jets are already better than last year. Special teams-wise, they're better. For the Jets to take the next step, it's going to have to be on offense.