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Colts vs. Jets: Week 6 offensive grades

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets hands the ball offsides to running back Bilal Powell #29 against the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 14, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets hands the ball offsides to running back Bilal Powell #29 against the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 14, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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The New York Jets put up 40 points for the second time this year behind a strong offensive showing against the Indianapolis Colts. How does the unit grade out following the team’s 42-34 victory?

The New York Jets offense continued their recent string of quality performances on Sunday as the team defeated the Indianapolis Colts 42-34 to improve to 3-3 on the season. While the offense was able to march down the field at will, they were unable to convert yards into touchdowns for much of the game and had to settle for a team-record seven field goals in the victory.

In other words, the Jets aren’t very good at finishing what they started. But while the Jets should be criticized for their lackluster red zone offense, it’s only fair to praise them for what they accomplished as well.

The Jets capitalized on a weak Colts secondary with quarterback Sam Darnold throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns as the rookie enjoyed perhaps the most successful afternoon of his young career. Darnold completed 80 percent of his passes and scored a 91.2 grade from Pro Football Focus which ranked first out of all 30 quarterbacks in Week 6.

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The USC rookie looked confident and composed as he zipped balls into tight windows and made quick, intelligent reads. This is even more encouraging considering the team’s reliance on the intermediate passing game as opposed to the short, West Coast style that offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has mostly employed.

Darnold’s one hiccup came on a poorly thrown interception on a deep ball intended for Robby Anderson. The QB was pressured on the play and forced a ball into double-coverage only for it to be severely underthrown and picked off by Colts ball-hawking safety Malik Hooker.

But even something like that managed to be turned into a positive as Darnold was able to bounce back and lead the Jets to eight consecutive scoring drives just a couple drives later. Darnold is looking more and more comfortable with each passing start and a performance such as this one is only another encouraging step in the right direction for the young signal-caller.

At just 21-years old, Darnold certainly has plenty of room for growth and development and if that’s the case, the Jets may have a special player on their hands with No. 14.

Equally as impressive was Darnold’s developed chemistry with receivers not named Robby Anderson or Quincy Enunwa. With Enunwa forced out due to an injury midway through the game, veterans Jermaine Kearse and Terrelle Pryor stepped up to have their biggest games of the season.

Kearse hauled in nine grabs for 94 yards as the former Seattle Seahawk proved his worth as a dependable target for the young Darnold. Kearse is a solid route-runner with great hands and his status as a reliable receiver should serve the team well with Enunwa likely sidelined for a number of weeks.

Pryor is another player who saw increased playing time once Enunwa was knocked out and he certainly made the most of it. The 6’4″ receiver caught five passes for 57 yards and used his large frame to box out defenders on a beautiful touchdown grab late in the second quarter.

Pryor had lost some playing time after a couple lackluster performances earlier in the year but has been thrust back into the fold out of necessity. At this point, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t capitalized on the opportunity and the Jets will look for more of the same with Pryor likely to receive substantial reps in the coming weeks.

The Jets also received substantial contributions from their four tight ends who each played a role in the team’s offensive success on Sunday.

Don’t be fooled by this group. There may not be a star that outshines the others but together they make a very efficient and effective tight end constellation.

The proverbial “north star” of the group is likely rookie Chris Herndon whose afternoon was highlighted by two big catches, one of which went for his first career touchdown. His touchdown reception was a coaching stroke of genius as the Jets ran a fake screen to counteract weeks of wide receiver screens, but it was his first grab that better emphasizes Herndon’s ability as a tight end.

In a play that was eerily similar to one a few weeks ago in Jacksonville, Herndon lined up as an H-back and ran a wheel route along the sideline. Darnold heaved the ball up into a 50/50 jump-ball scenario where Herndon skied over the aforementioned Hooker to bring down the pass for a juggling catch.

Two weeks ago, Herndon made a similar juggling catch only for the play to be called back due to an Eric Tomlinson hold. This time, there was no such hold and Darnold’s faith in Herndon paid off as the rookie fourth-round pick flashed his big-play ability.

Herndon has also developed into a very reliable blocker making him the most complete tight end on the Jets roster right now. If the trend continues, Herndon may find himself emerging from the pack even more so than he has now and establishing himself as the tight end of the future in New York.

The offensive line once again put together another very solid day, this time in pass protection. The unit did a good job of keeping Darnold upright allowing only two sacks and no additional quarterback hits. Tackles Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell had particularly strong games with the former grading out as the number one offensive tackle in pass blocking per PFF and the latter continuing his strong play this season.

Where the unit did fail, however, was with their inability to open up holes regularly. The Jets run game has been about as boom-or-bust as possible this season and this game was no different. While the unit was able to open up holes for a couple double-digit yard gains, more often than not the team’s running backs were getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage with nowhere to run.

This has been a big part of the team’s ineffectiveness in the red zone to this point as the Jets simply can’t trust the offensive line to give any sort of a push to provide consistent red zone yardage. Despite this, the unit has exceeded expectations so far this year and has played an instrumental role in the development of Darnold as a passer.

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Overall, despite the Jets scoring 42 points on Sunday, the offense only managed to score two touchdowns making the final score a bit deceiving. Still, the offense was able to put the team in favorable situations to score and at one point scored points on eight consecutive drives which alone earns them a solid grade this week.

Final Grade: B+

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