Fu­ture’s on dis­play

Rookie QBs set to start as Bills host Jets

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - SPORTS - JOHN WAWROW

OR­CHARD PARK, N.Y. — The only time rookie quar­ter­backs Josh Allen and Sam Darnold got on the field when the Bills faced the Jets a month ago was to shake hands fol­low­ing Buf­falo’s lop­sided vic­tory.

On Sun­day, much more is an­tic­i­pated from both when the two AFC East teams meet in Or­chard Park.

Allen, drafted sev­enth over­all, will make his third start for Buf­falo since miss­ing four games with a sprained right throw­ing el­bow. And the Jets’ Darnold, drafted third, is on track to re­turn af­ter miss­ing three games with a strained right foot.

The fo­cus on the two quar­ter­backs rep­re­sents one of the few rea­sons for in­trigue in a meet­ing of teams — Buf­falo is 4-8 and the Jets 3-9 — with lit­tle on the line en­ter­ing the fi­nal month.

Just don’t ask Jets coach Todd Bowles to com­mit to start­ing Darnold de­spite the rookie be­ing a full par­tic­i­pant in prac­tice Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

“Try­ing to get him bet­ter and get­ting him healthy, and then we’ll go from there,” Bowles said, when asked if he could sat­isfy peo­ple’s cu­rios­ity over who’ll start. “I’m not re­ally look­ing to mak­ing peo­ple happy.”

The Jets haven’t done much to make any­one happy for plenty of other rea­sons.

In los­ing six straight, they’ve fol­lowed one low point with an­other, while raising ques­tions over Bowles’ job se­cu­rity.

There was New York’s 41-10 loss to the Bills, af­ter which Bowles said: “We stunk it up as coaches, we stunk it up as play­ers.”

Then came last week­end, when the Jets squan­dered a 16-0 lead in a 26-22 loss at Ten­nessee. Bowles re­ferred to the col­lapse as “one of them games you’ll re­mem­ber for the rest of your life.”

Con­tin­u­ing Darnold’s de­vel­op­ment then be­comes the pri­or­ity, much like the Bills’ ap­proach to Allen.

Both have had their in­con­sis­ten­cies.

In Week 2, Darnold be­came the NFL’s youngest quar­ter­back to top 300 yards pass­ing in a 20-12 loss to Mi­ami. On the down­side, he also leads the league with 14 in­ter­cep­tions, in­clud­ing four in his last start, a 13-6 loss to Mi­ami.

Allen was er­ratic, go­ing 69-of114 for 657 yards and two touch­downs, with five in­ter­cep­tions and a lost fum­ble in his first five starts. He has shown signs of progress by go­ing 26-of-52 for 391 yards with three TDs and two in­ter­cep­tions in his past two.

Allen is also prov­ing to be an adept scram­bler by com­bin­ing for 234 yards rush­ing and a touch­down in the past two games.

“We’re watch­ing a young man grow and de­velop right in front of our eyes,” Bills coach Sean McDer­mott said.

The Jets can only hope for the same once Darnold re­turns.

“Be­fore he got hurt, he was de­vel­op­ing. He was see­ing the de­fences bet­ter. He was mak­ing his reads. He was mak­ing his au­di­bles and checks at the line,” Bowles said. “That part of it we were very pleased with. Some of those things he’ll have to get back.”

Here are other things to know when the Jets and Bills square off:

Bad me­mories

The Jets in­sist they’ve moved on from the loss to the Bills, a game they trailed 31-3 at the half, and were out­gained 451 to 199 yards of­fence. They haven’t for­got­ten, how­ever.

“Let’s cut to the chase, man — it’s per­sonal,” safety Ja­mal Adams said. “They came in and they whooped us, man. They don’t like us. We don’t like them.”

Sput­terin’ Jets

The Jets have scored one or fewer touch­downs in a fran­chise-worst five con­sec­u­tive games. They’ve also been lim­ited to one field goal on 17 fourth-quar­ter pos­ses­sions over their past four games. Eight ended with punts, five with in­ter­cep­tions, two on downs and one missed field goal.

Bowles said the blame is on the en­tire of­fence, and not sim­ply first-year of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Jeremy Bates.

“It’s not from a lack of try­ing or ev­ery­body try­ing,” Bowles said. “It just hasn’t hap­pened and it’s ex­tremely frus­trat­ing that we can’t get a touch­down in­stead of field goals.”

Im­prov­ing Bills

Af­ter go­ing through three starters in their first nine games, the Bills av­er­aged 248 yards of­fence and 10.6 points an out­ing.

The past three games, in­clud­ing Matt Barkley’s one start against the Jets, the Bills are av­er­ag­ing 398 yards of­fence and 27.3 points.

Allen said the im­prove­ment goes be­yond statis­tics. “It’s the feel that we have. It’s the chem­istry in the locker room right now,” he said.

Rare take­aways

The Jets tied an NFL record by go­ing five straight with­out forc­ing a turnover. That drought ended when Tru­maine Johnson re­turned a pass from Ten­nessee’s Mar­cus Mar­i­ota 31 yards for a touch­down.

By com­par­i­son, the Jets have the NFL’s fourth-most give­aways (24), one fewer than Buf­falo.

Let’s cut to the chase, man — it’s per­sonal. They came in and they whooped us, man. They don’t like us. We don’t like them.” Ja­mal Adams, New York Jets safety

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Bills quar­ter­back Josh Allen, left, and Jets quar­ter­back Sam Darnold talk af­ter Buf­falo de­feated New York on Nov. 11. Allen and Darnold, if healthy, are set to square off in a matchup of first-round picks on Sun­day, when the Bills host the Jets.

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