FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – OK, first of all, calm down. Take a deep breath. Remember that it’s only a controlled intra-squad scrimmage.
For the Jets, though, it wasn’t very good at all.
At least not for the starters who were overrun by the backups in what amounted to the team’s first game-like action of the summer. Sam Darnold and the first-team offense couldn’t manage a single point and committed three turnovers in six possessions against the backup defense. Meanwhile, the first-team defense couldn’t stop the backup offense, giving up two touchdowns and two field goals in five drives.
The score was 20-0 in favor of the backups – and not just the second-teamers, either – when Jets head coach Adam Gase seemed to have enough and called it off with about two minutes to go in the second quarter of action. Again, it’s just a scrimmage, so maybe this all shouldn’t be so alarming.
Then again, the Jets’ opener in Buffalo is only 18 days away.
“They’re aware,” Gase said during his post-scrimmage Zoom call. “That date is not moving, and we’ve only got so many practices. Whatever the sense of urgency was, you’ve just got to keep increasing it. You have to understand that window is going to close quick.”
In fairness, good coaches can fix a lot of mistakes in 18 days. And it’ll help when they get back some of the key players they were missing, like receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Denzel Mims (hamstring) and cornerbacks Brian Poole (dehydration) and Pierre Desir (hamstring).
But this was still bad. Real bad. Darnold really only led one good drive, and it ended with a terrible interception thrown right into the hands of rookie safety Ashtyn Davis. He blew one touchdown by overthrowing open tight end Chris Herndon. They had fumbles to end drives by receivers Chris Hogan and Jamison Crowder. Darnold even fell, seemingly tripping over his own feet, after taking one snap. And his rebuilt offensive line gave up a lot of pressure, leading to three plays that the officials whistled dead as sacks.
Again, it’s worth noting all those mistakes and all that pressure came against defensive players who’ll make up the Jets’ second- and third-stringers – if they even make the team.
And it might have been even worse on the other side of the ball, where the defensive starters set their own awful tone on the first drive when fourth-string quarterback Mike White drove right down the field on them. The Jets’ backups were eventually forced to punt, but that was the last time the first-team defense was able to stop them all day.
On the next drive, backup quarterback David Fales threw a pass right into the chest of linebacker Jordan Jenkins, but he dropped it, leading to a field goal. Then they gave up a touchdown drive to rookie quarterback James Morgan, followed by a 79-yard touchdown run by rookie running back La’Michal Perine.
And those are just the big details, not the little mistakes, like missed assignments, too many penalties, and probably more mental mistakes than the coaches will be able to count.
“There’s no concern, but there’s definitely an urgency there,” said safety Bradley McDougald. “We know what we need to improve on, most importantly. That’s the biggest thing. There’s no stress. There’s no worrying being done. But there’s definitely a new urgency. Guys know they need to get better.”
Surely they’ll get better, but they have to do it quickly and with no preseason games to work through their issues. The Jets may run another scrimmage on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, and who knows? Maybe they’ll look a lot better by then.
But this first scrimmage made it clear the Jets aren’t close to ready for that first real game yet. There’s no panic necessary. NFL history is littered with teams that looked awful in the summer and turned into juggernauts in the fall. But if the Jets are going to turn that trick, they’re going to have to do it quickly.
“Our guys realize,” Gase said, “’Hey, time is running out.’”