NEW YORK (AP) — Adam Gase doesn’t need to see the brutally bad numbers from last season to know how ineffective the New York Jets’ offense was.
The coach lived through all the frustration — at himself and his team — and headed back to his office every week intent on devising a better game plan to overcome the inconsistency and ineptitude.
Early downs, third downs, running plays and passing plays. You name it. None of it worked seemed to work, especially in the first half of the season.
“I mean, it was absolutely atrocious,” Gase acknowledged Thursday. “Everything last year, just throw all that out. All the stats were terrible.”
The Jets under Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains finished last in total offense, 31st in running offense, scoring offense and third-down efficiency and 29th in passing offense and sacks allowed.
Not exactly the juggernaut some might have expected when Gase came to New York last year with a reputation for being one of the league’s top young offensive minds.
“We have to be better on first and second down,” Gase said. “We have to avoid negative plays. When we do put ourselves in third-and-7 or less, we’ve got to execute. We’ve got to make sure that we’re right on the protections. We’ve got to get the ball out on time.”
That’s it? No problem, right?
“I mean, there’s a lot of things that when we went back and looked through all those situations, whether it be first- and second-down situations, third down and we’d break it up, there was a lot of groaning going on, especially with players not happy with some of the things,” Gase said.
“When you look back at it now, their knowledge now compared to what it was when we were playing last year, especially at the beginning of the year, it’s so much different where guys would be like: ’Why would I do that? I should’ve just did this and we would’ve gotten the first (down).’ Things like that, that’s part of the growth. And it’s frustrating when you’re going through it and when you do as poorly as we did that first half of the season, it just crushes you for the whole season.”
There were a number of reasons the Jets struggled so mightily on offense, and it starts with Gase’s play-calling, of course. But quarterback Sam Darnold’s bout with mononucleosis and subsequent inconsistent play over the next several weeks after he returned can’t be overstated. Neither can the shoddy play of the offensive line, which was overhauled in the offseason by general manager Joe Douglas.
The glimmer of hope was the way the offense, and Darnold specifically, finished as the Jets went 6-2 down the stretch. Darnold threw 13 touchdown passes and just four interceptions during that eight-game stretch and the offense flashed at times.
“There was so much positive turnaround,” Gase said. “We had really good games. We had better conversions, we had better first and second downs. And we’ve just got to make sure we do that earlier in the season this year and be consistent throughout the year.”
Darnold thinks having a year of experience in Gase’s system will help him immeasurably this season, with his own mental approach and on-field production.
“Just playing faster, just understanding almost before the ball’s even snapped, you know who’s going to be open, or just based on certain coverages and certain looks, you know,” the quarterback said. “So, yeah, I would definitely say it allows me to play faster. I’m more comfortable and allows me to play from confidence as well.”
Gase has vowed to use running back Le’Veon Bell more effectively, particularly in the receiving game. He brought in 37-year-old Frank Gore to complement Bell in the running game, along with rookie La’Mical Perine.
The wide receiver corps remain a bit of a question mark with Jamison Crowder back, but free-agent signing Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims missed some time in camp with injuries. Gase has repeatedly spoken with enthusiasm about what third-year tight end Chris Herndon’s “game-changing type” presence will do for the entire offense after he played just one game last season because of a four-game suspension and injuries.
That combination has Gase optimistic things will be drastically different this year. On the field and on the stat sheets.
“I mean there’s a lot of things that I’m excited about,” Gase said, “that are pointing us in the right direction.”
NOTES: S Marcus Maye didn’t practice and was listed with an ankle issue to go along with the calf injury that has recently sidelined him. … Perine (ankle) and LB Avery Williamson (hamstring) also didn’t practice. … Rookie WR Denzel Mims was limited after being a full participant Wednesday because of an issue with both hamstrings. He was listed as having a hamstring — singular — injury on Wednesday’s report. … Gore was given the day off, and Gase said the RB will typically get Thursdays off as rest days during the season. … LG Alex Lewis (shoulder), QB Joe Flacco (neck) and LB Tarell Basham (ankle) were limited.
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