I believe the very fact that we’re not sitting here discussing Sam Darnold is a huge testament to who he is as a teammate and NFL Quarterback. The New York Jets have been through the motions to say the least this off-season.
We’ve seen a GM get fired post-draft in Mike Maccagnan instead of the more logic pre-draft. We’ve seen the appointment of Adam Gase who although is competent he is far from an elite offensive mind in 2019.
Even their shiny new toy, Le’Veon Bell has had to deal with speculation surrounding his future already, he only signed on March 13th 2019.
Looking to the positive the Jets made waves in the NFL draft by picking the best out and out player in any position Quinnen Williams. Solid picks throughout the draft include offensive tackle Chuma Edoga.
The majority of the 2019 draft resembles a focus on athletic ability over character, it’s boom or bust in many cases but even if just one other player turns out to be good then I believe the Jets will have landed three pro-bowlers.
Despite all of this Sam Darnold has stayed quiet, stayed respectful and remained focus on the only thing he can control – his own game. Whereas other top tier sophomore quarterbacks have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons (Looking at you Baker).
Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, Baker Mayfield, in the same position would have commented on the draft class, commented on the lack of FA power, he would have said something about Le’Veon being potentially moved on already and he would have said something about Mike Maccagnan being fired.
Every single thing Baker Mayfield would have said, rightly or wrong, would have been picked up and turned into fuel to add to the fire.
In fact I struggle to think of many quarterbacks in the entire NFL that wouldn’t have commented on at least one of those issues at some stage over the past few months. The fact Darnold has remained loyal to those he sides with really does speak huge testament regarding the leader Sam Darnold is.
ON THE FIELD
Let’s start with the good here. Sam Darnold throws the ball as well as anybody in the NFL, if you’re designing a quarterback you would want somebody who can do exactly what Darnold does. He can place touch and velocity at the correct moments, his intermediate to deep ball placement is as good as it gets and on top of that he even throws outside with real zest.
Darnold has proven he can throw the ball inside the pocket, on the move, from under centre and from a drop back. Have you seen this man throw whilst on the move, it’s incredibly graceful.
One thing the Jets have done well and I see this improve under Gase is they’re utilizing the other-worldly ability Darnold possesses with out athleticism and out of pocket passing.
Ofcourse it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Darnold. He had his fair share of poor moments including the now infamous interception TD thrown on his first ever NFL play.
The good thing from last year is that we did see the improvements in Darnolds game on a week on week basis, he was actively getting better for the Jets every single week.
However, he is still making too many mistakes regardless of his age for an NFL QB. I lost count of the amount of times I saw Darnold make a poor read in coverage time and time again and in all fairness he needs to thank the football gods that there weren’t more interceptions.
He’s struggled typically against underneath zone defences but that’s something that won’t take long to rectify in his game, it all comes with experiences and we must remember Sam Darnold has only just turned 22 years old, he’s 2 years younger and therefore has 2 years less experience than Baker Mayfield when it comes to this kind of thing.
Typically under Bates he would favour the ‘safe’ pass instead of the more contested deep balls, unfortunately the term safe when it comes to Sam Darnold is flipped on it’s head and he’s more likely to complete a deep post than he is a ball into the flats.
This area of his game will improve with experience, better disguised play calling and better coaching that he’s likely to see in Gase.
Under Bowles the Jets looked to play a lot of inside zone running, unfortunately it’s no secret that Sam Darnold fairs better in an outside zone run scheme, a west coast scheme with similarities in play between the 49ers, Denver Broncos and New York Giants. Luckily with Gase you’ll see more of Darnold under centre and from play-action thus masking his weaknesses effectively.
BETTER THAN THE REST?
Sam Darnold has improvements to make in 2019/2020, without a shadow of a doubt but I see more from his game than I do Baker Mayfield’s game.
His other QB class mates have far more glaring issues than Sam Darnold does. Baker Mayfield struggles big time with backside reads and although he’s accurate does often fall into periods of complacent throws throughout a game.
Josh Rosen has been a victim of circumstance and questions of commitment still arise on a regular basis, he can be the best quarterback ever but if he’s got the mentality of Jay Cutler then he isn’t going to get anywhere.
Josh Allen, although in my opinion, is a future hall of famer who will end up with a ring or two in Buffalo he also has glaring issues. He has the most to improve but we can’t deny that he hugely struggles with processing defensive looks pre-and post-snap, understanding route concepts and getting off bad reads quickly (a crucial, overlooked quarterbacking skill) at the NFL level.
Lamar Jackson needs to learn to throw a ball from a High School level onwards in reality, he’s not a quarterback I think we’ll see much of a career from both in accomplishments and longevity.
WHY HAVE WE STOPPED TALKING ABOUT SAM DARNOLD?
However, I do find it wildly strange that the quarterback with the best off-field etiquette, the best college prospect coming out since Andrew Luck and the man with such an interesting franchise dynamic isn’t getting more conversation time amongst the media and fans alike.
For me, Sam Darnold has very real potential of becoming an NFL Pro Bowl quarterback, just watch him and you’ll soon realise the spotlight is on the wrong sophomore QB heading into 2019/20.