Why Sam Darnold might be on verge of crushing it for Jets


Part one of a series analyzing the New York Jets 

The Jets hope they found their answer at quarterback with Sam Darnold. Now entering his third year, the weight of the franchise is on the 22-year-old’s right arm.

The 2020 season and the future of coach Adam Gase rest largely on how far Darnold progresses in his third season. Darnold has had flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of inconsistent play in his first two years. His 2019 season was derailed early by a bout with mononucleosis that cost him three games. Darnold then had a rough stretch in October, which included him “seeing ghosts” against the Patriots. But things improved in the second half of the season.

Darnold threw six touchdowns and nine interceptions in his first five games. He turned that around to throw 13 touchdowns and four interceptions in his final eight games.

A midseason meeting between Darnold and Gase went a long way toward getting the QB more comfortable in the offense. Now, the two have a second year together, something both feel will benefit the Jets.

“I think it helps that our quarterback is returning and his knowledge of the game and his experience from this last year are very valuable to us because he’s able to communicate [with his teammates],” Gase said recently on the “Gang’s All Here” podcast. “Our meetings with him have been very, very good. You can tell that he has such a different grasp of everything compared to what he did in Year 1. I think that’s going to help us.”

It will also help Gase in finding ways to better play to Darnold’s strengths.

Sam Darnold
Sam DarnoldPaul J. Bereswill

“It’s just so much easier for him to talk through a lot of the things that happened last year,” Gase said. “Every once in a while you see the anger, by being able to see him in these video conferences, you see how angry he gets, ‘Why would I do that?’ or, ‘That was so stupid. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have done this. This is how we have to handle this moving forward. This is the adjustment I want to make on this.’ Him telling us what he wants to do moving forward in certain situations. That gets you excited as a coach.”

General manager Joe Douglas made it a priority to build around Darnold this offseason, emphasizing protection and playmakers. The Jets feel their offensive line should be vastly improved, which will help Darnold. He was sacked 33 times last season, including eight in one game.

The Jets added athleticism at tackle with first-round pick Mekhi Becton and George Fant. This could help Darnold roll out more, something that he does well but has not always been able to do because of protection issues.

Darnold lost Robby Anderson, but the Jets signed Breshard Perriman and drafted Denzel Mims to replace the speed lost with Anderson’s departure to Carolina.

The Jets are very thin behind Darnold, and it will not be surprising if they add a veteran quarterback before the season. The Jets did have talks with Andy Dalton before he signed with the Cowboys, according to a source.

David Fales is a favorite of Gase, but he has never started a game in his six-year career. Darnold has missed six games in his first two years and the Jets went 0-6. They need to make sure they have a strong backup.

The team took James Morgan in the fourth round of the draft out of Florida International. He is a strong-armed quarterback who could be a long-term backup for the Jets, but should not be expected to contribute in 2020.

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