It has not been a memorable rookie season for New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, expected to be the future of the franchise after he was selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The same applies to Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who was drafted four spots behind Darnold but has seen his first NFL season derailed by an elbow injury.
Neither rookie quarterback is expected to be in the lineup in what would have been their first meeting in the NFL when the slumping Jets host the reeling Bills on Sunday afternoon in a matchup of AFC East rivals.
Darnold was hurt in Sunday's 13-6 loss at Miami and was unable to practice Wednesday. Dealing with a sprained right foot, Darnold watched Wednesday's practice in a walking boot and is not expected back until after the team's Week 11 bye.
Veteran Josh McCown, who was having a career year in 2017 before suffering a broken hand in December, is expected to get the start in place of Darnold, who had his worst game as a pro with four interceptions against the Dolphins.
McCown took only 19 snaps in preseason, but Jets coach Todd Bowles expressed no worries about the preparation of the 39-year-old, who started 13 games last season and tossed a career-high 18 touchdowns against only nine interceptions before he was injured.
"I'm not concerned," Bowles said. "He practices every time, takes reps all the time. He's a true professional."
What does have Bowles concerned is an offense that has produced one touchdown in the last eight quarters and been outscored 74-33 during a three-game losing streak.
"It's the team, period," Bowles said Monday. "Yesterday was mainly the offense. There were tweaks here and there, but we just have to play better and execute as a whole. It's not just Sam. It's based upon the whole team."
Buffalo's offense is in even worse shape than New York. The Bills have dropped four in a row, have scored an NFL-worst 96 points and been outscored 103-20 in the three games since Allen was knocked out of the lineup in Week 6.
"It's frustrating not playing for me," Allen said. "I'm a competitor and I'm sure a lot of people who don't get to play because of an injury, whether it's their pride or their ego, whatever it is, they want to be out on the field. The reason I want to be out on the field is to help my team, whatever which way possible I can. When I can't do that, it hurts me."
Bills coach Sean McDermott was asked if there was a chance Allen could play Sunday against the Jets, and while he wouldn't answer the question directly, it seems prudent for the team not to rush their franchise quarterback back. Allen was able to return to practice and he's throwing again, but with Buffalo's bye week coming up, the extra rest and rehab would probably be wise.
"Yeah, that's certainly something that we discussed," McDermott said. "We've talked about that. At the end of the day, our docs give us, really, whether that would help or not. That's one of the factors that we've talked about."
The frustration in Buffalo is not limited to Allen's injury or the play of quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Nathan Peterman, who have combined to throw zero touchdowns and seven interceptions since Allen was hurt.
Bills running back LeSean McCoy declined to speak to the media yet again Wednesday amid rumors that he is disappointed not only with his play and the team's standing, but that he was not traded at the deadline to a place where he would have a semblance of a chance to succeed.
McCoy is enduring the worst year of his career. He has just 267 yards rushing and a 3.1 average per carry with no touchdowns. In his last three games, he has 24 yards on 24 carries behind an offensive line that has been unable to open holes.
"We've got to do a better job starting up front," McDermott said. "You can have all the different plays that you want, but at the end of the day, it's a man versus man game and you've got to move a guy off the ball. You've got to play with great fundamentals and technique, and that's really where it starts. It's a mindset."
New York's ground game also has flat-lined. Isaiah Crowell has rushed for 533 yards and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry, but 321 of those yards came in two games. Crowell has been limited to 143 yards on 50 carries in the past four games.