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Dolphins vs. Jets: Week 2 offensive grades

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 16: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets walks off the field after their 12-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins etLife Stadium on September 16, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 16: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets walks off the field after their 12-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins etLife Stadium on September 16, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
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It was a reality check for the New York Jets on Sunday as the team fell to their division rivals, the Miami Dolphins, by a final score of 20-12. How does the offense grade out following this frustrating defeat?

The New York Jets came crashing back down to Earth with a disappointing showing against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 as the team failed to live up to the sky-high expectations that had been placed upon them.

Just one week after demolishing the Detroit Lions 48-17 on Monday Night Football to start the season, the Jets came out and scored just 12 points in a sluggish loss to their division foes. The game was a story of inexperienced mistakes and backbreaking errors. From the offense’s three turnovers to untimely, drive-killing penalties, the Jets couldn’t get out of their own way and it ultimately cost them the game.

Two of those three turnovers came at the hands of the team’s rookie quarterback, Sam Darnold. While Darnold didn’t put together an Aaron Rodgers-like performance, the first-round pick made a number of impressive plays and did his best to keep the team in the game despite a couple of expected mistakes.

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The most egregious of which came on the team’s second offensive possession where safety T.J. McDonald jumped in front of a slant intended for Quincy Enunwa which set up a three-play Dolphins touchdown drive. Darnold locked his eyes on Enunwa and saw that he had beaten his man off the snap but never saw McDonald who undercut the route for an easy interception.

This is an issue of field vision but one that is not uncommon among NFL rookie quarterbacks. While it’s nothing to be pleased with, this is a learning experience for the young 21-year old and something that he must limit going forward.

The second interception is one that’s been a subject of hot debate since it happened but it’s hard to place all the fault on Darnold’s shoulders. Terrelle Pryor seemed to be running a slant route and was able to get a good inside release on the cornerback. Darnold read this and threw the ball out in front of Pryor who curved his route allowing the cornerback to recover. The result was a Xavien Howard interception.

Could the throw have been placed better? Yes. Could the route have been run better? Also yes.

When all is set and done, a better throw would have given Pryor a better chance at a touchdown but a better route wouldn’t have given the cornerback as much of a chance at an interception. The likely result would have been an incomplete pass.

Ultimately, the play was a mistake that the Jets couldn’t afford regardless of who was to blame.

Although Darnold looked a little shaky in the first half, the second half was a completely different story. The USC product led the Jets back to within one score as the team outscored their opponents 12-0 in the second half ultimately falling just short.

Darnold finished the day 25-of-41 for 334 yards to go along with his one touchdown pass and two interceptions, but those numbers could have looked significantly better had it not been for a few plays that could have very well gone the other way.

Pryor had a couple of drops, as did rookie tight end Chris Herndon who had a rough outing in his first game with notable playing time. Altogether, one could argue that Darnold’s Week 2 performance was more encouraging than his debut given that the rookie was asked to do a lot more and was forced to overcome terrible starting field position and mistakes from his playmakers.

One thing that certainly didn’t help Darnold was the overall lack of a run game. Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell struggled to get much of anything going as the running back tandem paired solid runs of five or six yards with drive-stalling losses of four or five behind a sketchy showing from the offensive line.

The unit failed to open up many lanes for the team’s tailbacks and clearly had a difficult time dealing with the step-up in talent from the Lions front-four to the Dolphins stout defensive line. Spencer Long and James Carpenter were two players who had noticeably bad games with their run blocking but the unit as a whole played poorly.

The line was better in pass protection despite allowing three sacks, especially with right tackle Brandon Shell rendering stud pass-rusher Cameron Wake a non-factor for much of the game. The development of Shell has been fun to watch over the past couple years and it appears that the former 6th-round pick has developed into a very solid starting right tackle.

Unfortunately, he’ll never get the credit he may deserve until the remainder of the line picks up the pace in the ground game. The receiving corps was once again the Enunwa show as the Nebraska product hauled in another seven receptions for 92 yards easily leading the team in both for the second consecutive week.

Darnold and Enunwa have developed quite the chemistry thus far and it’ll pay dividends to Enunwa’s end-of-the-year stat sheet. If this keeps up, Enunwa should be on pace for over 100 receptions, something only one New York Jet has ever accomplished, that being Brandon Marshall in 2015.

Elsewhere, Terrelle Pryor’s name jumps out on the box score as the former Cleveland Brown caught four passes for 84 yards. That being said, Pryor failed to capitalize on a few plays with one being the aforementioned interception to Howard and the second being the 3rd-and-22 heave from Darnold that was placed perfectly between two defenders but fell through the hands of Pryor.

It was surprising to see the Jets target Pryor as much as they did especially with wideout Jermaine Kearse back in the fold. Perhaps Kearse wasn’t fully healthy just yet but it seemed that the team was using Pryor in Kearse’s role for much of the game.

This is something the Jets should steer clear of as the talented Pryor makes for a good complementary option but doesn’t have nearly the same route-running ability or reliable hands that Kearse does.

Rookie 4th-round selection Chris Herndon was given an extended look in this game after Neal Sterling exited early with a concussion and the Miami product didn’t fair all too well. Herndon made a number of missteps including an unforgivable drop on a beautiful throw from a scrambling Darnold.

The rookie tight end was also the victim of poor clock management not stepping out of bounds as the first half was winding down and also failed to get into the end zone on the final play of the half falling just a yard short.

Herndon could be given a chance to redeem himself if Sterling isn’t able to go Thursday against the Cleveland Browns. With the team on a short week, it seems increasingly likely that Sterling won’t suit up. If that’s the case, look for Week 3 to be a bounce-back game for the talented rookie.

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Overall, it was a subpar week for the offense that could have gone very differently if not for a handful of mistakes and unforced errors. Regardless, any performance that nets 12 points of offense can’t be given a high grade.

Final Grade: C

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