MIAMI — The New York Jets hoped to play in a tough AFC East this season, but will they still be competitive come January?
There won’t be much opposition in the division for the Jets this season. After losing to the Miami Dolphins 24-0 on Sunday, the Jets are 0-6 and the Buffalo Bills are 0-5.
Both teams would prefer to be running away with their divisions, but that’s more of a pipe dream. The Jets played last weekend without two starters — center Spencer Long and cornerback Morris Claiborne.
“It’s tough,” Claiborne said. “Everyone saw last week how big we were missing. You can’t fix something that ain’t broken.”
Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold was 21 of 37 for 243 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns, but neither he nor Jets coach Todd Bowles would consider it a bad day.
“I played just as bad as I played the first four games,” Darnold said. “It’s how I look at it, and I don’t really look at it as a bad game. There’s always room for improvement. We were the only team that was 1-6. I think we’re doing a lot of good things.”
Bowles added: “I thought Sam was good. The plan was to let him play to where he was not rushed into anything. He really played well.”
Part of the difficulty for Darnold is the lack of pressure he’s seeing from his line. The Dolphins had 14 sacks of Darnold, the most in the NFL through six games.
“Our whole offense has to take care of the ball,” Darnold said. “We have to protect our quarterback and get in field-goal range, because if not, it’s a different ballgame.”
With three games remaining before the divisional play begins, the Jets are on pace to have the fewest wins in the NFL since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.
It’s their lowest mark after five games since 1997, when they lost their final four and finished 4-12.
But Bowles knows this could be a springboard for his young quarterback, and he’s not worried about Darnold having a confidence crisis.
“He’s been in tough situations a lot of the time,” Bowles said. “He’s a rookie.”
The Jets lost seven games last season after starting 0-4. During that collapse, Darnold was benched after a loss to Miami.
“I felt it as a rookie,” Darnold said. “I didn’t play well, so the coach did what he felt like he needed to do. I’m a little older now. As a rookie, your confidence is not really there. For me, I’m only 20 years old.”
With the home game against New England likely on the horizon, Darnold wants the Jets to bounce back and show some fight as soon as next Sunday.
“Those guys are going to bring it,” Darnold said. “I know the way we play our best football is when we play with a chip on our shoulder. I know I have a lot of doubters, so I think we’re going to be ready.”