Moeller: Can Darnold Ignite the Jets’ Offense?

Sam Darnold will be the centerpiece of the Jets’ offense Monday night in Detroit.

No surprise.

Forty-eight years ago, Joe Namath fittingly was in the spotlight during the inaugural game. He had a cast of Don Maynard, George Sauer, Matt Snell , and Emerson Boozer.

The real question is who will contribute around Darnold?

The Jets do have some offensive weapons who can make Darnold’s life a lot easier this fall and winter.

During the preseason, Darnold threw for 244 yards, completing 29 of 45 attempts for a pair of touchdowns and an interception. The Jets saw enough of him and really didn’t reveal their hand offensively.

They rushed for 283 yards on 102 carries for just under three yards a pop, and basically were working to get some depth to the position.

We really didn’t see Robbie Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Quincy Enunwa, or Terrelle Pryor consistently connecting in full gear down field, the latter two surfacing later because of injuries.

Playing less of your starters and saving them was a trend across the league this preseason.

Can one of them emerge as the playmaker the Jets have been seeking?

Isaiah Crowell was battling a concussion after he scored the team’s first preseason touchdown, and Bilal Powell did get 22 carries, but didn’t show us any of his breakaway explosiveness. Crowell produced 600-yard season over the past four years in Cleveland.

The team had high hopes for Eli McGuire to further emerge out of the backfield, but McGuire suffered a broken foot that ended those hopes.

They also were weighted heavily at tight end in camp, and Jordan Leggett has been projected as the frontrunner as he recently surfaced after an injury. Eric Tomlinson’s blocking ability will give him ample time there.

Darnold also will have to rely on an offensive line that has battled through injuries all summer as well as questions surrounding their cohesiveness and effectiveness.

This is a team whose win total can fall between six and eight.  That is, if Darnold and everyone else are on the same page.

This is year one of the Darnold era, and the Jets’ biggest concern may be just keeping him healthy through it all.

Will the Jets be able to generate a consistent running game and will Darnold be able to develop an air attack among his receiving core that has the potential to produce some big numbers?

It is easy to get excited about the possibilities, but we won’t be able to get a good read on the situation until the end of September.

Jets’ fans may just have to be patient after all.

That won’t be easy.

There hasn’t been this much promise and preseason hype since before the start of the 2011 season, off the consecutive AFC Championship Games.

Jets’ fans haven’t been this anxious for a Monday night game likely since their debut on the telecast back in 1970 when Namath was in the spotlight to possibly capture the night and ignite the season.

Now 48 years later, it is Darnold’s turn, and — like Namath — he will need a strong supporting cast.

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