Darnold’s shoulder remains big question mark for 0-10 Jets

AFC East

NEW YORK (AP)Sam Darnold might be back under center for the winless New York Jets. Well, possibly. Maybe.

The quarterback has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, and there was some optimism that he could return to face Miami on Sunday. Darnold is still going through an interval throwing program and his status remains uncertain.

”The shoulder feels good throwing,” Darnold said during a conference call Monday. ”I’m doing all the things I need to do. Really, at this point, it’s just about getting hit and how it’s going to respond that way.”

The 0-10 Jets return to practice Wednesday and they’ll see where Darnold is at at that point. There are some fans and media who think New York should just have the 23-year-old quarterback sit the rest of the season and heal. Darnold wants to play again – and soon – and isn’t concerned about jeopardizing his future.

”I think that was the point of sitting out last week, which was to prevent any type of setback,” he said. ”If I were to get hit, I didn’t feel comfortable enough or confident enough in my shoulder if it were to be hit that I’d be fine. I think I’m nearing that point to where I finally have a little bit more confidence in my shoulder and be able to withstand a hit. That’s a good thing.”

Darnold, who missed two games earlier after initially injuring the shoulder on Oct. 1, said even if he were to get hurt again, which he doesn’t envision happening, the worst-case scenario would be he’d have to sit again for a few weeks – not a long-term serious injury.

His injury situation has created an interesting dilemma for the Jets, who have shown some marked improvement the last two games with Joe Flacco starting at quarterback. While New York still hasn’t won, Flacco has certainly been better than what Darnold had been before either of his shoulder-related absences.

”I’d like to see him play with our starting wide receivers,” coach Adam Gase said when asked what the coach’s perspective would be on Darnold playing. ”That would probably be my No. 1 thing I’d love to see.”

That actually hasn’t happened this season, with Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims taking the field together in the same game for the first time two weeks ago – with Flacco at quarterback.

”Those guys are doing a really good job and are making plays for us,” Darnold said. ”Regardless of their situation and how well they are playing, I just want to be out there. I’m always going to be eager to want to go out there and play football.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Red-zone offense. Really. It’s true. Scoring touchdowns inside the opponents’ 20-yard line has been a problem the entire season, but the Jets have finally showed some signs of improvement, going 3 for 3 in those situations against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. New York was 1 for 2 in the red zone in its last game against New England.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The secondary. Rookie Justin Herbert and veteran wide receiver Keenan Allen toyed with the Jets all day, with Herbert throwing for 366 yards and Allen setting a franchise mark with 16 catches for 145 yards and a TD. Because of injuries, and a few ineffective veterans having been previously released, New York had three rookies at cornerback – Bryce Hall, Lamar Jackson and Javelin Guidry – with Hall and Jackson starting and not surprisingly struggling at times.

STOCK UP

Denzel Mims. The second-rounder is emerging as a legitimate playmaker at wide receiver. His numbers weren’t eye-popping – three catches for 71 yards – but it was another glimpse of the potential Mims has as a fast, physical target who makes contested grabs.

”He has the ability to use his length and use his speed, and I think he’s getting better and better at that each week,” Flacco said.

STOCK DOWN

Sam Ficken. The kicker was sidelined three games with a strained right groin and then missed two extra-point attempts in his return. Sergio Castillo, who remains on the roster, went 6 for 7 on field goals and 4 for 4 on PATs in Ficken’s place. Gase said the spot will be evaluated during the week.

INJURED

RB La’Mical Perine has a high ankle sprain and could be sidelined a few weeks, as he was late in training camp with a similar injury. … RT George Fant is dealing with knee and ankle sprains. … OL Chuma Edoga has a low-ankle sprain. … LB Patrick Onwuasor has a hamstring issue that could be a lingering result of the knee injury that sidelined him since training camp.

KEY NUMBER

0 – The number of receptions Jets wide receivers had in the first half against the Chargers. Crowder and Mims saw just one target each, including Flacco’s pick-6 on a throw to Crowder on New York’s second possession. Flacco was 3 of 8 for 30 yards in the first half before finishing 15 of 30 for 205 yards overall.

NEXT STEPS

The slow crawl to a potential 0-16 finish continues with a matchup Sunday with AFC East-rival Miami at home. The Dolphins embarrassed the Jets 24-0 in their previous meeting in Week 6.

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