Jets QB Sam Darnold believes in the rookie wall
By Luke Easterling
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold should be much improved in his second NFL season, and even he admits the truth of the “rookie wall” he experienced last year.
The legend of the rookie wall is true, if you ask Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.
Most college football teams only play 12 regular-season games, and sometimes a couple more if they make conference championships or bowl games. That can make the transition to the NFL difficult, as the 16-game regular season gives rookies a rude awakening to the grueling grind of pro football.
Darnold experienced it first-hand in 2018, and he’s better prepared to deal with the long haul this time around (via team senior reporter Eric Allen):
The break definitely helped me get a little more juice and a little more energy because that rookie wall is real. Don’t get me wrong — I’m the last person to make an excuse, but it’s a long year for us: going through the draft, combine, all those things that go along with the process, pro day, getting ready for so many different things.
An injury slowed Darnold during the latter part of his rookie season, as personal struggles (the loss of his grandmother in November) added to the stress for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
Darnold had to take a moment to shift his mindset, looking at the big picture:
It was starting to become a lot. I had some family stuff I was dealing with too, towards the end of the year right when I got hurt. So it was just a lot and I think for me it was taking a step back and realizing, ‘Hey, man. This is a game. You’re supposed to go out there and have fun, not be so stressed.’
Darnold showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie, giving fans plenty of hope for the Jets’ future. The team has lacked a true franchise quarterback for some time now, and while Darnold had his share of rookie struggles in 2018, he’s already proven he has all the physical and mental tools to be a difference-maker at the game’s most important position.
If he can stay healthy in 2019, the Jets have built a strong supporting cast around their young quarterback, who is capable of avoiding a sophomore slump and leading the Jets back to the postseason for the first time in eight years.