Top 3 reasons why Sam Darnold should start for the Jets
By Mike Barry
Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has already shown he can do well under center for the New York Jets. Here are the top three reasons why the Jets should start him to begin the regular season.
Coming out of the University of Southern California, many believed quarterback Sam Darnold was considered the top quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft class. Throughout his college career, Darnold flashed attributes that not only fanbases drooled over but NFL front offices as well.
From his poise in big games, to his impressive decision making and finally his athletic ability to turn busted plays into long gains – the New York Jets are hoping they found their potential franchise quarterback for years to come.
On a week to week basis during the 2017 season, Darnold carried himself like a future franchise quarterback. Even at times when he was turning the ball over, which seemed to be his only red flag, Darnold continuously showed parts of his game that kept him at the top of 2018 quarterback class.
These same characteristics of his game are exactly why he is in line to become the starting quarterback this upcoming season for the 2018 New York Jets. Here are the top three reasons why Darnold needs to be the Jets Week 1 regular season starter.
3. Poised like a savvy veteran
“His composure is on a vet level.”
This is what wide receiver Jermaine Kearse had to say about same Darnold in an interview with Andy Vasquez of NorthJersey.com, down in Virginia where the Jets participated in joint practices with the Washington Redskins.
From what I’ve seen in his interviews and in last week’s preseason game, I could not agree more with that statement from Kearse. From the moment Darnold came on to the field against the Falcons, I had to continuously remind myself that he was our 21-year-old rookie quarterback out there – not Josh McCown. When the Jets were threatening in the red zone but were flagged with a debatable offensive pass interference, Darnold took it in stride. The very next play he climbed the pocket and delivered a rope on the run to wide receiver Charles Johnson just inside the pylon.
In their first preseason game. rookie quarterbacks are generally pretty “vanilla” when it comes to their play – a lot of check downs and handoffs. But when head coach Todd Bowles said they’re throwing everything at him he wasn’t kidding.
Carrying yourself with a quiet confidence while also not making the moment too big to handle will be such an important attribute for Darnold to possess – especially if he plans on being the quarterback Week 1 on Monday Night Football in Detroit.
Next: 2. Decision making on point
2. Decision making on point
Consistently throughout this training camp, we keep hearing how Darnold works through his reads, scanning the field knowing exactly where each of his receivers will be. On August 6th you can see here from Connor Hughes of the Athletic’s Twitter Darnold makes one of his “most impressive” throws so far in camp.
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Having a rookie quarterback who can come in showing an understanding of what the defense is giving you then immediately knows where to go with the football is something you don’t usually see until year two.
Darnold had made another veteran type decision against the Falcons last week, acknowledging the blitz and understanding his protection, thus putting the football where it needs to be – resulting in a successful play.
The best quarterback I’ve seen coming out of college in terms of understanding and breaking down a defense at the line of scrimmage has to be Andrew Luck. I don’t believe Darnold is quite on that level coming out of school yet, but he sure is taking the necessary steps in that direction.
By the end of this season, Darnold should have seen plenty of game action, resulting in a combination of success and failure. Obtaining this in-game action will set Darnold up with a ton of experience to build off of going into the offseason. So much so, it will give him the chance to learn and grow coming back to the team much more seasoned.
Next: 1. Underrated athletic ability
1. Underrated athletic ability
As you can see, I am a huge fan of Darnold’s athletic ability. The plays he can make outside of the pocket were on full display last week in his first action against the Falcons. On his scoring play, you see Darnold recognize the pressure, stepping up in the pocket, putting him in a position to make a throw on the run for the score to Johnson.
As the game progressed, we continued to see this kind of movement from Darnold from within the pocket but also when he would break from it. Late in the game, the Jets ran a play action boot having Darnold roll to his left, opposite his throwing arm of course. Darnold got depth after the play action then squared up his shoulders as he came downhill to deliver an absolute dime to receiver Andre Roberts, who was dragging across the field from the slot.
The way in which Darnold can create throwing opportunities with his legs will help him find success as he settles into the NFL. This isn’t a new part of his game that he is relying on because he is dropping his eyes. Instead, he is keeping his eyes downfield with “throw first” in his mind while also realizing he can pick up yards with his legs.
A guy with the smarts like Darnold at such a young age, when it comes to playing this position as well as the athletic ability he possesses, has made me extremely intrigued to see the kind of success he can have this year and in the future. That’s why it’s important to have him begin his journey now rather than prolong the inevitable, Darnold is going to be a very good quarterback for years to come.