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Jets show some positives, but need lots of work in offseason

December 16, 2018
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New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) tries to avoid a sack from Houston Texans nose tackle Brandon Dunn during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

NEW YORK (AP) — Jamal Adams understands what the New York Jets’ record shows: a 4-10 squad facing an uncertain future.

He also refuses to accept that they are one of the NFL’s worst, no matter what the standings or critics say.

“Again, we’re a good football team,” the safety insisted after the Jets’ 29-22 loss to Houston on Saturday night. “We’re obviously in every ballgame besides the Buffalo Bills game, but the rest we’ve been in. So I don’t really know where the speculation of just because we’re losing we’re a bad football team (comes from).

“We’ve just got to make more plays and play smarter at certain times.”

The Jets have actually played a lot better since losing to Buffalo 41-10 on Nov. 11. A 14-point loss to New England followed, then a seven-point defeat at Tennessee. They snapped a six-game skid with a 27-23 victory at Buffalo last Sunday and then held a late lead before falling to the AFC South-leading Texans.

So, a play here or there and the record could look a lot more respectable.

Coach Todd Bowles deals in reality, though, and there’s no denying the facts staring him in the face.

“Our record is what it is,” Bowles said Sunday when asked about Adams’ postgame comments. “We are a 4-10 football team. We compete our butts off, but no moral victories (for) playing hard. We’ve got to win ballgames.”

That, of course, has been much easier said than done this season. And time is running out, with a home game against Green Bay next Sunday followed by the finale at New England.

Bowles is likely to be dismissed after that, ending a four-year tenure that included no playoff appearances. General manager Mike Maccagnan is also no lock to be back, especially if acting owner Christopher Johnson decides to start from scratch — again.

But, is Adams’ overall assessment that far off, as outlandish or optimistic as it seems at face value?

Well, for one, the Jets believe they have their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold , and he has certainly played like one in the two games since he missed three with a foot injury.

The No. 3 overall pick is 40 of 62 for 423 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and showed in both games an ability to take over drives with both his legs and his right arm.

“Darnold’s special, and you see it,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said. “He is special. He has kept us in games, for sure.”

For a franchise in flux, having the quarterback to build around is a start. Whether it’s Bowles and Maccagnan or another combination of men in charge, the Jets will head into the offseason expected to have more than $100 million in salary cap space. They’ll have the opportunity to bring in the type of playmakers that could have made a difference in those close losses.

On offense, Darnold is working with a line that has been inconsistent and a backfield that is missing its top two players in Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell because of injuries. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa has been banged-up and the rookie is beginning to establish a rapport with deep threat Robby Anderson.

“Obviously, he’s getting comfortable and he’s making plays with his feet and he’s finding the open areas,” Bowles said of Darnold. “He and Robby have had the chance to work together for a while now and it’s just starting to click.”

Anderson was targeted 11 times by Darnold against the Texans and finished with seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Against Buffalo, Anderson had four catches for 76 yards and a score on seven targets.

“Communication, repetition and connecting,” Anderson said of what has changed between him and Darnold since training camp.

There’s still some fine-tuning needed, though, as shown when Anderson couldn’t hang onto Darnold’s pass on fourth-and-14 from the Jets 21 late in the game that led to a field goal for the Texans with 57 seconds left.

“Every throw that I throw to our receivers, I feel like they can catch,” Darnold said. “But at the same time, I’ve got to put it in a better spot. That’s just the name of the game.”

There have also been frequent breakdowns on defense late in games, including allowing Deshaun Watson to march the Texans down the field 75 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. That has been an ongoing theme throughout the season, something that will need to be fixed moving forward, whether it’s adding additional playmakers, a new scheme, or both.

“It was just a couple of plays here and there that we could have made,” cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “For the most part, I felt like we put together a good game. Probably one or two plays that separates them. That’s the difference in this league. I felt like we came out with some good energy. We came out and played fast. It just didn’t come out our way.”

NOTES: Bowles said RT Brandon Shell was scheduled to have an MRI later Sunday after he was carted off the field with a knee injury. “I don’t think he’ll be back anytime soon,” Bowles said. ... Bowles said WR Rishard Matthews (hamstring) is also having an MRI, and DB Darryl Roberts has a sprained toe.

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