After talk of progress, Sam Darnold a big disappointment for Jets

Remember all that summer happy talk from the New York Jets about Sam Darnold's growth in coach Adam Gase's offense? Just watch, they said. Darnold, in Year 2 of Gase's system, will make a major step forward under the so-called quarterback whisperer.

Based on what unfolded Sunday in Orchard Park, New York, it was all empty promises.

Darnold got off to a horrible start and struggled through most of the Jets' 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills, raising a few burning questions:

Was it Darnold? Was it Gase? Was it the lack of playmakers?

This is the narrative that will dominate the conversation in the coming days and weeks. This much we know: Darnold threw a brutal interception, missed open receivers, took an unnecessary sack and seemed out of sync the entire day. You could say it was his worst game since his infamous "Ghosts" performance last season against the New England Patriots.

Darnold completed 21 of 35 passes for 215 yards with a touchdown, but the numbers don't tell the full story. His 69-yard touchdown pass was a screen to wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who did all the work. The third-year quarterback, who needs a good year to cement his long-term future, seemed indecisive at times. Greater command of Gase's offense? Hardly.

There wasn't much around him. Other than Crowder (seven catches for 115 yards), Darnold got little help. There was a little spark with running back Le'Veon Bell, but he injured a hamstring in the second quarter and was a nonfactor after that.

This was a troubling performance on every level, but it starts with Darnold, who seemed to regress Sunday after a promising finish to last season.

Troubling trend: The Jets devoted most of their offseason resources to rebuilding the offensive line. The initial results weren't great. The line, with four new starters, lacked punch in the running game, as the Jets managed 52 yards on 15 carries. The pass protection was suspect, as Darnold was sacked three times and pressured 16 times. One sack was on Darnold, who passed up an easy throwaway. Rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton held up reasonably well. He allowed one sack, but it could've gone as a coverage sack. He also had a holding penalty (declined). You knew there would be growing pains with a new line, and that's what happened. The line will get better.

Sell stock on defense: What happened? Not only was the defense horrible, allowing three straight touchdown drives in the first half, but it also appeared confused by the Bills' empty formations. With a still-developing offense, the Jets needed their defense to carry the day, but it got ripped apart by Josh Allen's arm (a career-high 312 passing yards) and legs (57 rushing yards). It was Buffalo's first 300-yard passing game since 2016. It could've been a lot worse, but Allen's two fumbles kept the Jets in the game.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams played a lot of zone, but his schemes did nothing to stop Buffalo. The most alarming part was the lack of discipline. The defense committed six penalties, including killer calls on Brian Poole, Quinnen Williams and Pierre Desir. Going forward, the Jets have serious concerns because they can't cover and can't rush the passer -- not a good combo.

Sell your Desir stock: After cutting Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, the Jets signed Desir to be their CB1. They gave him $4 million for one year -- and he stunk in his debut. He struggled so much in the first half that he was benched in favor of Nate Hairston. Desir gave too much cushion on multiple plays, playing beyond the sticks. Perhaps he was overly cautious after missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Either way, it's not a good sign when your best corner gets pulled before halftime.

Silver lining: Safety Marcus Maye was the Jets' best player on the field. Replacing Jamal Adams at strong safety, he was every bit as good as Adams, recording the first two full sacks of his career, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Maye did everything -- well, not everything. He let Allen out of his grasp on a couple of would-be tackles. Otherwise, it was an encouraging debut in his new role. Jamal who?

Bold prediction: Frank Gore, who played the first 10 seasons of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, will get a chance to turn back the clock next Sunday at MetLife Stadium. With Bell hurting -- he was removed in the third quarter -- Gore, 37, will get a chance to be the feature back against his first and forever team.