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New York Jets' Adam Gase says struggling QB Sam Darnold won't be benched

New York Jets coach Adam Gase, under fire after an 0-3 start, remains committed to struggling quarterback Sam Darnold.

"He just needs to keep playing," Gase said Monday. "He needs to keep playing and keep fixing the mistakes that are made and really emphasize the things he's doing really well, and just keep building on those."

Even if Gase wanted to bench Darnold, who had three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) in Sunday's 36-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, he doesn't have a viable option at this point.

Veteran backup Joe Flacco, who underwent April neck surgery, was inactive for the first three games. He didn't start practicing until last week and could be inactive again Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, his previous team.

Mike White, who has no regular-season experience, is the No. 2 quarterback until Flacco is ready. That could be Week 5. Gase made it sound like he's prepared to ride it out with Darnold, drafted third overall in 2018.

On Monday, Gase was asked for the first time about the possibility of benching Darnold, who has been starting since Week 1 of his rookie year.

"That's always a tough decision because he's 23 years old and he's in his third year," Gase said. "Every snap he takes in a real game, they're so valuable. They're learning experiences. You have to go through tough situations sometimes.

"It's not always going to be smooth. You're going to go through times where it's tough on him and it's tough when we're trying to call plays and things aren't going the way we want them to. But that's what we're having to have to go through right now."

Without his top three wide receivers -- Jamison Crowder (hamstring), Denzel Mims (hamstring/IR), Breshad Perriman (ankle) -- and No. 1 running back, Le'Veon Bell (IR), Darnold played one of the worst games of his pro career on Sunday. He became the first Jets quarterback since Geno Smith (2013) to throw two pick-sixes in a game.

Those throws were bad, but the most demoralizing play was an end-zone interception on a first-an-goal from the Colts' 7-yard line. At that point, the Jets still were in the game, trailing 17-7 in the second quarter.

"I have to be smart with the football," said Darnold, who has 32 interceptions in 29 starts.

Darnold played poorly in the season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills but showed modest improvement in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers. Sunday was a big step backward. He's ranked 30th out of 31 qualifying quarterbacks in Total QBR (28.3). He rebounded from a midseason slump last year, although he's not looking back.

"Every situation is different," he said. "I'm just really focused on living in the moment right now, to be honest. We obviously had a rough stretch here with the first three games not going the way we wanted them to. I think, for me, focusing on what we have to do today is the key to everything."

Darnold's most reliable receiver might return Thursday night, as Crowder hopes to play after missing two games.

The Jets also received positive injury news on standout rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton. An MRI showed that a shoulder injury from Sunday, initially feared to be a torn pectoral muscle, isn't serious. He likely will play against the Broncos.