FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Mulligan for GM: Now that they've waved the white flag on 2020, the Jets are promoting their future.
They have 18 picks in the 2021 and 2022 drafts, including nine in the first three rounds. Their lineup Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (1 p.m. ET, CBS) will be filled with more rookies than in any game this season, with tackle Mekhi Becton and wide receiver Denzel Mims returning from injuries and running back La'Mical Perine growing into a bigger role.
That's cool -- that's what 0-6 teams are supposed to do -- except there should be a red flag alongside the white one.
This wasn't the plan when general manager Joe Douglas was hired in June 2019. In his first news conference, he noted the benefit of having a quarterback on his rookie contract and stressed the importance of maximizing that window. Douglas said, "When you know you have the right guy, there's a sense of urgency: 'Let's go win right now.' I feel that confidence is here right now."
Somewhere along the way, the Jets went from "win right now" to "win later." They have wasted two seasons of quarterback Sam Darnold's rookie contract. There's still a year to go, but who knows if he will be here to play it out? Clemson Tigers star Trevor Lawrence looms on the horizon.
This means Douglas is 0-for-1 in team building. He either overestimated the talent on last year's 7-9 team or didn't do a good enough job of restocking the roster in the offseason. Either way, it's a fail. While it's premature to pan his ability as a GM, it's apparent from the results on the field that his first incarnation of the team didn't work out.
The turning point was the trade of safety Jamal Adams. Douglas received good value on the return -- first-round picks in 2021 and 2022 -- but the die was cast. No team that fancies itself as a contender trades its best player on the eve of training camp. If Douglas thought they would be able to overcome it ... well, that was a miscalculation.
Since bottoming out, the Jets have unloaded running back Le'Veon Bell, nose tackle Steve McLendon and seldom-used linebacker Jordan Willis, acquiring a pair of 2022 sixth-round picks in the McLendon and Willis trades -- i.e., a couple of extra pawns on the chess board. There figures to be more action before the Nov. 3 trading deadline, with linebacker Avery Williamson and safety Bradley McDougald among the candidates who could be moved.
The good news is there can be no confusion about what's next. The Jets are rebuilding yet again. Smart people around the league still swear by Douglas' acumen as a talent evaluator. He needs to hire the right coach, assuming Adam Gase is a goner, and do a better job with the roster than he did in his first crack at it.
2. Imperfect 10: The rest of the season is all about Darnold, who returns to the lineup after a two-game shoulder injury. He has 10 games to convince the hierarchy he is the long-term answer, but here's the cold reality: The only way Darnold can secure his position is to win. If the Jets keep losing and wind up with the No. 1 overall pick, he likely will be replaced by Lawrence (assuming Lawrence enters the draft and doesn't ditch the Jets with a power play).
It's a tough spot for Darnold, 23, a good soldier who hasn't complained about a below-average supporting cast. This notion Mims will be an instant elixir for this sorry offense is a stretch; he hasn't played a game since college. More significantly, Darnold will be without his No. 1 target, Jamison Crowder, whose groin injury is a big concern and could keep him out multiple weeks.
It's always something, right? That's life in the NFL. Gase said it's "unfair to judge" Darnold because of all the moving parts on offense, but that's exactly what will happen when it comes time to make a quarterback decision.
3. Time for safety swap: Team officials talked up McDougald when he arrived in the Adams trade, but his impact has been minimal. Except for a fumble recovery in Week 1, he has made no game-changing plays. It wouldn't surprise me if he is replaced by rookie Ashtyn Davis at some point, perhaps as soon as Sunday. It also wouldn't shock me if the Jets try to trade him and the $2.1 million remaining on his base salary.
McDougald, who turns 30 on Nov. 15, will be a free agent after the season and there's little chance of him re-signing with the Jets.
4. Maye's pay day: Marcus Maye, he of the celebrated "Butt Pick," is heading into the final 10 games of his rookie contract. My sense is the Jets will get calls on him at the deadline, with teams thinking they might be able to get him in a fire sale. This is a tough call. The Jets like him, but are they willing to pay him? Based on other safety contracts, he's looking at something in the $6 million to $8 million per year neighborhood.
Maye graded out well last week in his move back to free safety. He's a solid player and a good locker room guy, the kind of player you should keep around.
5. You da man: The book is out on the Jets: If you want to choke their offense, just man up.
The Jets have seen a high rate of man-to-man coverage, especially over the past three games -- a league-high 71% in that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. For the season, they're at 63%, which ranks second to the New England Patriots.
Why so much man?
Clearly, the Jets' weapons don't scare anybody, so opponents don't feel the need to play zone and keep a second safety over the top. Their past five opponents played a higher rate of man coverage than usual (dramatically higher in some cases), which is telling.
The only way to bust the trend is to start generating explosive plays. You can't say they don't have enough speed on the field. With Perriman and Mims, they have two wide receivers with sub-4.4 speed in the 40. But we all know it takes more than speed.
6. Lots of goose eggs: The Jets have been shut out in a league-high 39 quarters since the start of last season. Let's think about that for a second: They have played 88 quarters under Gase -- 22 games -- and have failed to score a single point in almost half of them.
7. In his head: In his past seven matchups against Sean McDermott-coached defenses, Gase's offenses have averaged 17 points per game. They have been held under 22 points in every game -- four with the Miami Dolphins, three with the Jets.
8. Did you know? The Bills are 12-0 against teams 0-6 or worse in the Super Bowl era. They have the most wins without a loss against 0-6 or worse teams in that time, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
9. Last laugh: Josh Allen's impressive start for the Bills got me thinking about the Jets' blockbuster trade on St. Patrick's Day 2018. The Jets were giddy because they felt their stealth move -- one month before the draft -- caught the quarterback-needy Bills by surprise and boxed them out. The Jets moved from the No. 6 pick to No. 3, which enabled them to get Darnold, their top quarterback prospect.
A source said the Bills were so furious with the Indianapolis Colts, who made the trade with the Jets, that they refused to take their calls on other potential deals during the draft. Some Jets' folks enjoyed a good chuckle over that.
Suffice it to say the Bills aren't mad anymore. They might have been boxed out of the top six, so they traded up from No. 12 to No. 7 to grab Allen, who has blossomed this season.
10. The last word: "You have to put good things on tape. If we're worried about next year, shame on us, because we have a job to do as a players. Our job is to play football. You have to do it to the best of your ability to keep your job. You don't want to be on the outside looking in next week or next year." -- guard Greg Van Roten on whether the front office has shifted its focus to 2021.