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New York Jets: Has Sam Darnold been a disappointment this season?

New York Jets (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
New York Jets (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
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New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has been through a rollercoaster of a 2019 season. But has the second-year signal-caller disappointed?

It hasn’t exactly been an ideal season for Sam Darnold. The New York Jets quarterback entered the year looking to take a big leap in his second NFL season with an improved supporting cast and new head coach.

But Darnold was handicapped from the very start of the season after it was announced that he had come down with a case of mononucleosis following the team’s Week 1 collapse against the Buffalo Bills.

For the Jets, this was just the icing on the cake for what became a disastrous Week 1. And for Darnold, the second-year QB would go on to miss the team’s next three games before making his triumphant return to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6.

It seemed as though the USC product was ready to pick up where he had left off and that his huge second-year leap had just been delayed. Unfortunately, that would not be the case.

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Darnold put together the worst performance of his NFL career in an ugly, embarrassing 33-0 loss to the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. And once the “seeing ghosts” comment began to take off, it could have spelled disaster for his season.

After two more below-average starts against Jacksonville and Miami, Darnold finally began to take off.

The 22-year-old would complete 58-of-89 passes for seven touchdowns and only one interception over his next three starts as the Jets surged to a three-game win streak.

Yes, this was against the likes of the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and a flailing Oakland Raiders team, but the excellent performances were much needed. Finally, Darnold had turned around his season and gotten back on the right track.

Darnold’s 2019 season hasn’t gone as expected, but has it been disappointing?

On the one hand, yes. Darnold hasn’t had the 2019 campaign that most Jets fans had likely envisioned. From missing time with an illness to his disastrous midseason performances, it hasn’t been an ideal season for the former USC star.

That said, his play overall has actually been an improvement off of last season — at least statistically. Below you see a stat line comparison between his first and second NFL seasons so far.

He’s cut down on turnovers while his completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns, and yards per attempt are all on pace to finish higher. He’s shown improvement, not in the ways many fans would have hoped, but an improvement nonetheless.

Aside from the stats, we have seen a step back in terms of decision-making. Perhaps a product of an abysmal offensive line, Darnold has too often forced passes into coverage as opposed to throwing the ball away or taking a sack.

He doesn’t give up on a play, that much is certain. Sometimes it leads to big gains downfield and other times it leads to ugly turnovers.

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For the first time in his career, we also saw Darnold get legitimately rattled and not be able to bounce back. One of his most admirable qualities throughout his career has been his ability to bounce back and not dwell on past mistakes.

But in that Monday night game against the Patriots, we saw a side of Darnold that we hadn’t seen before. He was shaken and unable to respond. It was startling.

At the same time, Darnold’s improvisation skills have also been on full display this season. He’s never looked better when making plays outside the pocket and his pocket presence and ability to sense the rush are all well above-average for a player his age.

It hasn’t been a storybook sophomore NFL season for Darnold, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been a success.

Essentially, while his season may be a bit of a disappointment, his play has been anything but.

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And at just 22-years-old, there’s still plenty of room to continue growing.

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