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Jets hit bye week just as season has started to slip away

A Jets season that started with promise just after Labor Day has fizzled out before Thanksgiving.

The Jets are 3-7 at the bye — another lost season in a decade full of them. It appears they will be searching for a new head coach in just over a month, as Todd Bowles is likely in his final weeks as head coach.

Not much has gone right for the Jets, who are riding a four-game losing streak into the bye. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has shown flashes of what he is capable of, but he has struggled in recent weeks before getting sidelined by a sprained foot last week.

The offense is terrible, ranked 29th at 299.4 yards per game. They have not scored more than 17 points in a game in over a month. The defense has shown some promise, but also suffered terrible letdowns in losses to the Browns, Bears and Bills.

Bowles is maintaining the stance his team can still turn around its season, but those words seem empty. They have two games remaining with the Patriots — plus games with the Packers, Texans and Titans, who are all contenders.

“It’s not hard,” Bowles said of turning things around. “It’s football. We line up, we put on our pads and play. We coach the hell out of them, and we go out and try to win games. That’s real simple for us to do. We got to get it done.”

That is something the Jets have been unable to do in the first two-plus months of the season. They have won just once on the road. They are tied for the worst red-zone offense in the league and in dead last in third-down conversions.

Darnold remains the hope for the future. And they have oodles of cap space this offseason to rebuild the team. The rookie quarterback from USC has shown potential that should excite fans (the win over the Colts) but also looked very much like a rookie at other times (the loss at Miami)

If Darnold can return from the foot injury soon, as the Jets hope, the final six weeks of the season will mainly about seeing him develop.

This will be the Jets’ third straight losing season if they lose two more games. Bowles does not believe the locker room will splinter, but fans have seen that happen in the past.

“We got a good locker room,” Bowles said. “These guys understand that they’re good football players and they play hard as hell. And they are going to try like hell to win ball games. This is part of it. It’s up to us as coaches and up to them as players to do that and they’ve been doing a good job at that.”

Here is a look at the Jets at the bye:

10-game MVP
Second-year safety Jamal Adams has become the heart and soul of the team. Adams displays boundless energy on the field even when his teammates look defeated like they did against the Bills last week. He has 50 tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks this year. Adams is as good a run-stuffing safety as you’ll find.

10-game LVP
The Jets gave cornerback Trumaine Johnson a five-year, $72.5 million contract this offseason. His impact has been minimal. Johnson missed five games with a thigh injury then returned last week and got burned on the first play of the game by a Bills receiver who was signed off the practice squad a day before. Johnson has one interception (which he then fumbled) and gave up a 67-yard touchdown against the Jaguars. It is still early, but so far, this signing looks like a bust.

Least surprising surprise
Everyone expected Sam Darnold to struggle during his rookie year, but it was still jarring to see how poorly he has played recently. He threw four interceptions against the Dolphins, his last game before getting hurt. Darnold has a quarterback rating of 68.3. Only fellow rookies Josh Rosen and Josh Allen are worse.

Best surprise
Rookie tight end Chris Herndon has emerged as the season has gone on as potentially the best player the Jets have had at that position in years. Herndon, a fourth-round pick, has 19 catches for 257 yards and three receiving touchdowns, which is tied for the team lead. Herndon has shown he can block as well as catch, giving the Jets a true all-around tight end.

Biggest disappointment
The entire offense has been a disappointment, but it really starts with the offensive line. They have had a few good games but overall have not gotten the job done. The rushing attack does not look terrible when you look at the numbers initially. The Jets are 19th in rushing, averaging 107.3 yards per game. But that number is deceiving because it is skewed by the 323 yards rushing in one game against the Broncos. If you take away that game, they are averaging 83.3 yards rushing per game, which would put them 30th in the league.

Best moment
This is an easy one. The Jets delivered a stunning, opening-night, 48-17 win over the Lions on a Monday night. They rolled in that game, scoring 31 points in the third quarter. They had touchdowns from the offense, defense and special teams. Darnold settled down after a pick-six on the first play of the game to have a decent debut. The Jets were flying high after this one, but then lost three straight games.

Worst moment
It is hard to remember many losses worse than the 41-10 defeat to the Bills last week. Matt Barkley, the Bills’ fourth-string quarterback, carved up the Jets’ defense. The Bills successfully converted a fake punt and a tackle-eligible touchdown pass. Jets backup quarterback Josh McCown threw two interceptions, and the Jets had one play where they were called for three holding penalties.

Most revealing stat
The Jets have scored just 24 points in the first quarter this season. That is 2.4 points per game in the first period for you math majors. They have been pathetic at the start of games — a poor reflection on offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who scrips the opening 15 plays. The Jets have yet to score on their opening possession this year and have led after the first quarter only once (against the Colts). They have constantly been playing from behind this year, and it is killing them.

Worst personnel decision
Center was one of the biggest needs this offseason, and the Jets whiffed on it. They signed Spencer Long to a four-year, $27.4 million contract, and he has been a disaster. Long has had a ton of trouble with shotgun snaps this year, and it has thrown off the timing of Darnold and the offense, most notably in Miami. Pro Football Focus has Long rated as the worst of the 36 centers they have graded this year. The good news for the Jets is they can get out of the contract after this year.

Upcoming decision
Who is going to lead this team going into 2019? It seems like a certainty Bowles will be fired. Will general manager Mike Maccagnan go with him? That appears unlikely right now. CEO Christopher Johnson must decide who is going to chart the course of the franchise going forward. Do the Jets hire an offensive mind to develop Darnold? Do they chase John Harbaugh if the Ravens fire him? Do they try to lure his brother Jim away from Michigan? It is going to be a huge decision for Johnson and his brother Woody, who surely will have some input from across the ocean.

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