Winners of Two Straight, Jets Staying Together and Focused
There was absolutely a point just a couple of weeks ago that the New York Jets season looked ready to splinter apart. And while the playoffs are but a distant dream, the Jets suddenly find themselves with a better culture through their adversity.
Their record, 3-7, may not be very good. But after consecutive wins in the past two weeks, the Jets have a better grasp on not just who they are, but where they are going. Now this new lease on their rebuild will be pushed on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, a team that is rounding into form and looks playoff bound.
This was a Jets team that, a month ago, saw protests against head coach Adam Gase, with a plane flying over Manhattan bearing the message on a banner of ‘Fire Adam Gase!’ The team’s star safety had lashed out against the Jets for fielding calls on the trade deadline from other teams. And the franchise quarterback had appeared to be regressing.
Fast forward to Week 12 and Gase may not be the perfect head coach but he seems to have a firm grip on his locker room. Safety Jamal Adams has registered five sacks over the past two games and seems once again to be all-in.
And for Darnold, the young quarterback has shown veteran’s poise in his performance against two hapless NFC East teams in as many weeks.
A season on the brink is now pointing to the potential of 2020.
“Coach Gase, Adam, did a really good job of making sure that we were all staying together but for the most part it was player driven,” Darnold told the media at the team’s facility on Thursday.
“We have such great guys in the locker room, the coaches do a great job making sure that we all stay together and they do a great job of continuing to work hard and game plan but everyone in that locker room is set on winning no matter what, whether we are 1-7, or we have a winning record. Everyone is going to take it one week at a time and continue to work super hard, that's just what we do and that's all those guys know in the locker room.”
That could all come crashing down this week.
The Jets face (finally) a real test in Week 12. Unlike their past four opponents, none of whom currently own a winning record, the Raiders are a legitimate playoff contender.
They have a solid starting quarterback, a top five running back, a big offensive line and several playmakers on defense. And at 6-4, they are a team with plenty to play for.
So for the first time all year, the Jets have to guard against expectations and hype. But the confidence is the byproduct of a rebuild that is beginning to take form and show promise.
“That’s one of those things where guys feel like what they’re doing in practice, the amount of time and effort that they’re putting into things, you get rewarded with a win,” Gase said Thursday during his press conference.
“Obviously, you have to go out there and execute on Sunday and do all the right things and play 60 minutes and play complimentary football, that’s what we want to keep doing is keep improving on that. I think the more we play as three phases together, the more success we have. If we’re all over the place and not in line with each other, that’s where we struggle.”
It is a point that isn’t lost on Darnold. Coming off his best two games of the year, including a career-high four touchdown passes in the win last weekend at Washington, Darnold and the entire Jets offense need to be pragmatic in their approach against a Raiders team that has won three straight games and is growing by the week under second-year head coach Jon Gruden.
Guarding against over-confidence and reading their own press clippings is going to be important for the Jets ahead of this game, something that was unthinkable a month ago.
Not a bad problem to have.
“It's just about taking it one week at a time. If we do that, we have that mindset, then you can never get too high or too low, whether you win or you lose,” Darnold said. “If we truly, truly have the mindset of taking it one week at a time, it doesn't matter.”