NY Jets Optimistic Roster Breakdown: QB Sam Darnold

NY Jets (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

In the spirit of positivity, let’s take a look at an optimistic outlook for NY Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold.

The NY Jets have given us plenty of reasons to be pessimistic over the years. Recounting the franchise’s history is oftentimes more of a cruel form of torture than a true walk down memory lane.

But rather than focusing on the many negatives — especially during a time like this — why not be a little optimistic?

That’s why we decided to start this new series where we will be breaking down various players on the roster and analyzing what an optimistic projection for them could be in 2020.

Who knows how many players we’ll get through, but today we start with perhaps the most important member of the team — quarterback Sam Darnold.

Perhaps no quarterback (save for Josh Rosen) has found himself in a less favorable situation through his first two years in the NFL than Darnold. Despite this, the former USC star has shown continued improvement giving fans hope for a brighter future.

He’ll need some help, but there are reasons to believe that 2020 could be the year that Darnold finally takes the widely-discussed “next step.”

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Optimistic stats projection

  • 25 TD, 10 INT, 3,850 passing yards, 64% completion, 3 rushing TD’s, 225 rushing yards

*All optimistic stats projections are based on a 16-game output because….optimism*

Darnold showed statistical improvement from his rookie season to his second complete NFL campaign despite arguably being saddled with a worse supporting cast. That alone should provide hope that he can continue to improve in 2020.

His touchdown total went up from 17 to 19 while his interception total dropped from 15 to 13. We’re projection a similar, albeit more significant improvement in 2020 with his touchdowns shooting up to 25 and his interceptions falling to just 10.

That touchdown total would have ranked 13th in the NFL last season while 14 quarterbacks tossed more interceptions in 2019. Meanwhile, the 64 percent completion percentage would rank him around league-average at No. 17 in the NFL.

These are optimistic, but not unrealistic projections. Darnold isn’t going to win the MVP in 2020, rather hoping for him to become a statistically above-average quarterback by the season’s end is a completely feasible possibility.

He’ll need some things to go right, however, for that to actually happen.

How Sam Darnold could find success with the NY Jets in 2020

Simply put, Darnold can’t do it by himself.

The Jets need to have surrounded their quarterback with a strong enough offensive line and adequate receivers. Perhaps even more important, Darnold will need his head coach to do a much better job in his second year with the Jets.

Gase must find ways to maximize Darnold’s talent instead of pigeonholing him into a role he doesn’t fit. That includes getting him outside the pocket more and allowing him an opportunity to improvise downfield.

Less five-step drops in the pocket and more rolling out on play action.

Of course, that works hand in hand with the offensive line. The Jets’ five-man unit up front looks improved on paper, but so did last year’s unit around this time. The offensive line must show real improvement both in pass protection and run-blocking.

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Establishing any semblance of a running game would also go a long way towards taking some of the pressure off Darnold. The Jets were the second-worst team on third-down conversions last season and that’s primarily because they were faced with so many third-and-long situations.

Providing a competent running game will help alleviate the pressure Darnold oftentimes faced on third down.

The team’s wide receivers must also exceed preseason expectations. Aside from Jamison Crowder, the Jets don’t exactly have a reliable starting-caliber player ready to contribute in Week 1.

Whether it’s a player like Denzel Mims proving that he’s more NFL-ready than anticipated or someone like Breshad Perriman proving his five-game stretch of dominance at the end of last season wasn’t a fluke, the team needs someone (or multiple someones) to step up.

Ultimately, however, Darnold himself will need to show improvement as well.

The 23-year-old will need to become more consistent with his decision-making and avoid those disastrous outings that have hindered his career to this point. Darnold must continue to cut down on his turnovers, a problem many young quarterbacks struggle with.

2020 can be the year of Sam Darnold, it isn’t impossible. But he’ll likely need the majority of these things to go right.

Next. NY Jets: 3 questions for the offense going into 2020

Is it likely? Perhaps not. But unlikely things happen all the time.

And the Jets are certainly due for some good fortune.