EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Sam Darnold got out of the Jets' game against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night in one piece.
And that's pretty much the best thing that can be said about his game and the Jets' offense in their 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night.
Right from the start, Darnold and the Jets' offense looked as out of sync as they've been all preseason. There were fumbles, breakdowns, bad throws, drops, and more than enough bad blocking to go around. Yes, he still didn't have Le'Veon Bell in his arsenal, and he was also missing three-fifths of his starting offensive line.
He did rally for a touchdown drive before he left - a drive that included a beautiful, 41-yard pass to Robby Anderson. But that also came against the Saints' second-team defense.
Overall for the Jets' offense? Yuck.
Darnold finished the game 8 of 13 for 97 yards and a touchdown - not bad -- but was under siege right from the beginning with center Ryan Kalil and guards Brian Winters and Kelechi Osemele out. He wasn't helped by a Ty Montgomery fumble on the first play of the game. Nor was he helped by the fact that Montgomery could only find room for 21 yards on his eight carries behind that patchwork offensive line.
For a game that's supposed to be the final tune-up before the regular season, it was not an encouraging sign. Not that there's any reason to panic - or even worry. Adam Gase didn't exactly open his playbook wide for this game, nor did the Jets do a lot of game-planning. But still, the starting offense managed just 51 total yards in their first four series - and that included two series against the Saints' second-stringers. And that's a very bad look for an offense that's supposed to be ready to gel.
There was a bright side, though. The Jets' starting offense eventually managed to put together a nice drive and ended their night with a seven-play, 65-yard march for a touchdown. The final play was a thing of beauty - a perfectly placed two-yard swing pass from Darnold to Montgomery to pull the Jets within 10-7 at the time.
So at least there was that.
Here are a few other takeaways from the Jets' third preseason game …
Not that you necessarily want to see this in a preseason game, but Darnold - on that touchdown drive -- showed his toughness by absorbing all those hits. Even right after taking the biggest one of the game - a blindside hit from an unblocked Trey Hendrickson - he stood in the pocket and fired a deep pass down the field to Anderson just as the pocket was collapsing around him. Darnold took another hit but the pass went for 41 yards and set up that lone touchdown.
Even after his game-opening fumble, Montgomery became the workhorse for the Jets in this game. He didn't have a lot of room to run (8-21) but he became Darnold's safety valve when the pressure was on. He was targeted four times and caught all four for 24 yards. That's a good preview of what his role might look like when Bell is ready to go.
Teams don't game plan in the preseason (supposedly) but the Saints sure looked like they were targeting Jets LB Neville Hewitt on the opening drive. Hewitt, making his first start in place of injured LB Avery Williamson (torn ACL) actually wasn't bad. He shed a few blocks and make some good plays against the run. His one bad play came when he got caught inside and RB Alvin Kamara got loose for a 25-yard swing pass down the sidelines. Otherwise, not terrible.
CB Tevaughn Campbell, the former rugby player for the Canadian national team, started for the injured Trumaine Johnson. The result? He got stuck one-on-one with Saints receiver Michael Thomas and was beaten for a 19-yard touchdown on the first drive. His coverage wasn't awful, and getting beaten by Thomas happens to many, of course.
The Jets were missing three starters on the offensive line and they certainly played like it. They generated only 19 yards on the ground (on nine carries) when the starters were in the game, and the Saints had no trouble getting pressure on Sam Darnold. That's why he dumped off five of his 13 passes to his running backs.
I know Adam Gase wanted to get Darnold some work, but I'm not sure I understand the benefit in risking him behind a line that's a mess. For a couple of series, sure. But why leave him in for the entire first half. He's got no Bell, he's not really game planning and he's in danger of being hammered on every drop back. Darnold is everything for the Jets. Whatever he gained by being in there a few more series would've been meaningless if he had gotten hurt. And with that offensive line, that risk was real.
Leonard Williams, Jordan Jenkins, Steve McLendon and Henry Anderson all remained in the game for extra snaps after all the other starters were pulled. That's not necessarily unusual or indicative of anything, but one week after Gase lost Avery Williamson to a torn ACL when he was in the game longer than all the other starters, it was an odd risk for him to take.
Rookie WR Greg Dortch continues to impress the Jets and looks like he'll grab one of the last receiver spots. It's his performance on punt returns that makes that seem like a certainty. He added a 27-yard return on Saturday night that he nearly broke for something much longer.
Kicker problem? What kicker problem. Taylor Bertlolet nailed field goals of 48 and 56 yards in the third quarter, hours after Jets GM Joe Douglas said this was going to be a "big night" for him. The Jets seem to want him to be their kicker, but a lot hinged on this game. Those kicks will definitely help.
Luke Falk was the third quarterback in, ahead of Davis Webb, who's career seems to be hanging by a thread at the moment. Falk vs. Webb for the third quarterback job will likely be decided on Thursday night when the Jets wrap up their preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Meadowlands.