By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The Jets are banged up, struggling and searching for answers, and their fans are already fed up.
Just two games into the season.
Now, New York heads to New England on Sunday against the AFC East rival Patriots, and an 0-3 start appears a strong possibility. The Jets opened as an 18-point underdog, a line that grew to 22 on Tuesday with word that quarterback Trevor Siemian is out for the year with an ankle injury.
Sam Darnold is still a few weeks away from returning from a bout with mononucleosis, so it’s up to Luke Falk, of all people, to try to keep things from spiraling.
“It’s definitely a weird situation of unfortunate events for those two guys,” Falk said after New York’s 23-3 loss to Cleveland on Monday night. “I just want to go out there and do the best that I can and help my team win.”
That’s a tall order, though, especially for a guy who was on the practice squad until being promoted to the active roster a few hours before the game. He was pressed into action in the second quarter when Siemian was hurt and went 20 of 25 for 198 yards in his NFL debut.
Not bad, but the offense still couldn’t do much against the Browns.
“There are plays out there that I’d like back that I should be able to make without having those practice reps,” Falk said. “But I think definitely having a week of preparation and a week of practice, I’ll be ready to roll.”
Good thing because it’s Falk’s job now, at least until Darnold comes back.
Gregg Williams’ defense held Baker Mayfield and Cleveland’s offense mostly in check for most of the night, but Odell Beckham Jr. managed a few big plays, including an 89-yard touchdown that broke it open.
Even safety Jamal Adams was taken out of the game after being called for consecutive penalties late in the game. His frustration appeared evident from him removing references to the Jets — along with LSU — from his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“It’s social media, at the end of the day,” Adams said during his weekly spot on WFAN. “It’s outside noise. I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on this team and how we can get better.”
— WHAT’S WORKING: Well, not much, other than running back Le’Veon Bell.
Through two games, he has 128 yards rushing and 16 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Despite the issues with the offensive line, Bell is consistently trying to make things happen on a struggling offense.
“It’s easy to get down, but I don’t let that negativity affect me,” Bell wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “I’m BLESSED! I’m healthy, secure, & back doing what I love! Yea, I’m frustrated things haven’t went our way. But I look at life and think, how can I complain? I’m grateful to be in this position & to play this game.”
— WHAT NEEDS HELP: A lot.
The offensive line is struggling mightily, and that has contributed to Adam Gase’s offense — which was described by Darnold in the preseason as having potential to be “electric” — scoring just 19 points in two games.
They allowed eight quarterback hits, including four sacks, and were generally overpowered all night by the Browns.
Center Ryan Kalil, who came out of retirement last month, was replaced late in the game by Jonotthan Harrison. Gase said Kalil is “still a ways away from where he wants to be.”
— STOCK UP: Sam Ficken. For one week, at least, the Jets aren’t searching for a kicker. That’s because Ficken — the team’s fourth kicker since July — booted a 46-yard field goal against Cleveland. Ficken replaced Kaare Vedvik last week.
— STOCK DOWN: Trumaine Johnson. The team’s supposed No. 1 cornerback — and one of the Jets’ highest-paid players — was benched in favor of Nate Hairston against Cleveland.
— INJURED: Linebacker Jordan Jenkins (calf) and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) are week to week, while linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin) and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (ankle) are considered day to day.
— KEY NUMBER: 33 — That’s how many quarterbacks, including Falk this Sunday, will have started a game at the position for the Jets since Joe Namath’s final season with the franchise in 1976.
— NEXT STEPS: The Jets need to turn things around in a hurry, but it won’t be easy with a rough schedule ahead.
They take on the Patriots this week and then have a much-needed bye-week break. Then, it’s games at Philadelphia and home against Dallas and New England.
“It was such a combination of things,” Gase said of the loss to the Browns. “We were all taking our turns. … When it’s kind of going like that within a game, we just have to make sure we do a way better job of everybody buckling down, doing their job, and making sure their assignments are correct — every guy across the board is just doing their job, and it starts with me.”