NFL Football

Struggling QBs meet when Jets host Broncos

Quarterback play has been an issue for both the Denver Broncos and New York Jets this season.

That's less surprising for the Jets, who opted to go with rookie Sam Darnold as the starter and have experienced the predictable growing pains, losing three straight games since a season-opening win in Detroit.

The Broncos expected more out of Case Keenum, who signed a two-year contract in the offseason after guiding the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last season.

Keenum has failed to throw a touchdown pass since Week 1, but the hope for both teams is that the quarterback and overall play improves when the Jets (1-3) host the Broncos (2-2) on Sunday afternoon.

"Our concern is winning football games," Denver head coach Vance Joseph said. "How we score touchdowns is my concern -- running or throwing -- but Case is going to get better and better with time. We're figuring out who we are as an offense.

"It's been a month into the season. I've been proud of how Case has played. Our O-line is playing well, so we'll see. He's going to get better and better with time."

Similarly, Jets head coach Todd Bowles is not voicing concerns over the play of Darnold, who is averaging 217 yards passing and has failed to complete 50 percent of his passes in the last two games. Bowles told reporters that he saw progress from Darnold in last week's 31-12 loss at Jacksonville.

"It doesn't show on the scoreboard or in the game ... but I saw some positive signs from him that I was pleased with," Bowles said of the No. 3 overall draft pick.

Keenum has thrown twice as many interceptions (6) as touchdown passes (3) and Denver has averaged 19 points over the past three games. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have combined for 44 receptions, but they have scored only one touchdown apiece. No other Denver player has more than nine catches.

"I don't care how we get into the end zone," Keenum said, echoing the sentiments of his coach. "Obviously, I like throwing touchdowns. I like when those guys are running them in, too. We have two great backs; they're doing a great job, but we've got a bunch of targets. I think receivers and tight ends, they want to get in the end zone, too.

"Whatever it takes -- I know that the whole team is that way. Whatever it takes to score more points than the other team. Whether it's run or pass. But yeah, we'd love to get more passes going."

The same holds true for New York. The passing game has offered little outside of Quincy Enunwa, who has a team-high 21 catches for 278 yards. Running back Bilal Powell is next with 10 receptions.

The Jets learned Thursday that Robby Anderson, who had 63 catches last season, will not face suspension after pleading no contest to a reckless driving charge. Anderson is off to a lackluster start with only eight catches for 108 yards and a touchdown and two lost fumbles.

Darnold was the early toast of New York after guiding the Jets to a 48-17 demolition of Detroit in his NFL debut. Since then, the Jets have scored only 41 points and Darnold has thrown for 169 and 167 yards in road losses at Cleveland and Jacksonville the past two weeks.

"He's extending plays like (Kansas City quarterback Patrick) Mahomes," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said of Darnold. "Great footwork. The Jaguars dropped about three picks last week, so that's something. I definitely noticed that. He's going to force it in there. He's going to try to make all the throws. He has no fear and he's playing to win. That's one thing you like from a rookie."

Sunday's matchup could turn out to be a battle of the running games. Isaiah Crowell (171 yards) and Bilal Powell (165) lead New York's rushing attack, while Denver counters with the rookie tandem of Phillip Lindsay (267) and Royce Freeman (219).

Freeman, a third-round pick out of Oregon, has rushed for a touchdown in each of the last three games and had 67 yards on eight carries in Monday's 27-23 loss to Kansas City.

Denver has won five of the last six meetings between these teams, including last year's 23-0 victory when Broncos linebacker Shane Ray broke Jets quarterback Josh McCown's left hand, ending his season.

Updated October 4, 2018

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