The winless New York Jets will finally see the return of their starting quarterback, when Sam Darnold, his body fully recovered from a bout with mononucleosis and his spleen shrunk to its pre-mono state, takes the field against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
But Darnold's presence on the field might not be enough to turn around what has been a moribund offense through four games. Sure, miserable quarterback play from Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk has sidetracked Adam Gase's offense in the coach's first season in New York, but so has shoddy offensive line performance, conservative play-calling and a slew of other injuries and suspensions.
The 0-4 Jets are not a quick fix, something their offensive MVP through four weeks (if there has been such a thing) knows well.
"Obviously, everybody still has to play football," Le'Veon Bell told reporters Wednesday. "We can't expect Sam just to go out there and be Superman. We know he's a great player and he can make a lot of plays but guys still got to do their jobs.
"They still got to protect him, still got to make plays for him. We've got to make sure we get all the calls in. Everybody's got to line up and make his job easier, so he doesn't have to get too much. He has to shake off a little rust, you know?"
How does Gang Green's offense (31st in the league in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, and currently being outgained by Christian McCaffrey, 866 to 718) help Darnold knock off the rust?
A more consistent offensive line would help. Gase has shaken up the unit in recent weeks, replacing injured left guard Kelechi Osemele with Alex Lewis and right tackle Brandon Shell with Chuma Edoga, but as of last Sunday, the results were the same; Falk was sacked 10 times and was hit 16 times. Football Outsiders considers New York's offensive line the worst in football through five weeks.
Better O-line play would open up holes for Bell, New York's high-priced free-agent acquisition, who is averaging a career-low 2.9 yards per carry this season and leads the team in carries (71), targets (32) and receptions (27). It would also allow Darnold more time to find receivers Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder, both of whom have been afterthoughts since the season opener.
The return of promising second-year tight end Chris Herndon from his four-game suspension should also aid Darnold eventually by providing the QB a security blanket. But Herndon injured his hamstring last week and is not expected to play in Darnold's return on Sunday afternoon.
New York, as a whole, would benefit from the return from injury of expensive linebacker C.J. Mosley, as well. But the defensive signal-caller is still sidelined with a groin injury and did not practice Wednesday. Neither did DE Henry Anderson (shoulder), DB Nate Hairston (knee) or Osemele (a lot).
Long list short, Darnold isn't the saving grace Jets fans hope he will be. The second-year quarterback provides smoother pocket mobility, quicker decision-making and a better grasp of Gase's "system" than his overmatched teammates in Siemian and Falk. But as Bell explained, successfully easing Darnold back into the system takes more than just the QB playing the valiant superhero.
"He hasn't really played the last three, four games. Plus we had the bye. He hasn't been practicing. He hasn't been hit, nothing like that," Bell said. "It's going to be him playing football, just getting back to his mode, making throws, seeing the timing, guys' running speed and stuff like that.
"When he gets back in a game, I'm sure he'll be ready."