With the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected Sam Darnold — quarterback out of USC. Jets fans seemed exuberant to hear his name be called, knowing they needed a quarterback to right the ship– or jet since they are in fact the Jets.
What fans are not hoping for, is a repeat of the last quarterback they selected in the first round of the draft. In 2009, the Jets took Mark Sanchez out of USC. Of course things didn’t work out, even though Sanchez did somehow lead New York to the AFC Championship twice.
He lost both games and would never reach the postseason again for the Jets. He played for the Jets from 2009-2012—with his lasting memory being the infamous “butt fumble.” Since then, the Jets have been searching for their new signal caller to no avail.
Darnold has sparked belief among New York fans that he could become their franchise quarterback. It remains to be seen, but time will tell if the former USC quarterback will pan out in the NFL. He got off to a fast start in his rookie season, winning his first game.
On September 10th, Darnold made his NFL debut. The Jets were facing the Detroit Lions, with their new head coach Matt Patricia. Both teams wanted to get their seasons started on the right foot.
Ultimately, the Jets dominated from the first snap of the game, with New York dominating the game 48-17. Darnold was the popular topic, as he completed 76% of his passes and threw two touchdowns. Jets fans haven’t seen their quarterback perform at a high-level in a long time.
Things seemed to be on the up, until Week 2, where he struggled against the Miami Dolphins. He fell back down to earth, throwing two interceptions and completed just 60% of his attempts. In the span of Weeks 2-4, he combined to throw two touchdowns and four interceptions. Darnold also completed just 54% of his passes.
Coming into the NFL, Darnold’s glaring weaknesses were his decision making and accuracy. Both have been visible in his rookie season. Everyone knew there were going to be growing pains, especially for a guy who had 22 interceptions in two seasons at USC.
Darnold would have his best game so far this year in Week 6. The Jets were squaring off against the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck. Darnold finished with 280 yards, two touchdowns and a 80% completion percentage.
The Jets also won the game, 42-34 in a shootout. It was impressive to see a rookie hold his ground against a team with Luck at the helm—who loves to air it out. Not many games have gone according to script for Darnold this year.
Darnold has been dealing with a sprained foot in recent weeks, essentially keeping him out of games. He’s doubtful in Week 13, leaving a return in 2018 up in the air. Before the injury, Darnold had 1,934 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
So what should be next for the rookie quarterback? For Darnold to make himself worthy of the third overall pick, he’ll need to limit his turnovers and improve his accuracy. His completion percentage sits at an abysmal 55% (33rd in NFL) and he has thrown 14 interceptions (most in NFL).
Hopefully Darnold can change the losing culture that surround the Jets in recent years. The Jets made the right choice of taking a quarterback, but will it be Darnold standing over the rest when it’s all said and done? We will see in due time–with only Baker Mayfield showing any promise so far.
The Jets will need to continue building around Darnold starting this off-season. He doesn’t have many weapons with his receivers being Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. The running game is serviceable, but isn’t consistent enough to threaten teams on the ground.
His offensive line will need some work as well with protecting him being the main priority going forward. They should take a book out of the Colts playbook and bulk up their offensive line. Look at what it’s doing for Luck and company.
The best ability is availability in the NFL — with it being a full-contact sport. Quarterbacks are the most important pieces to the puzzle of trying to reach a Super Bowl. That’s why the New England Patriots have been able to dominate for almost two decades now — with Tom Brady seemingly defeating father time.
Darnold wasn’t drafted into a great environment, but he can be part of the change that needs to occur for the Jets to turn around their misfortunes. Having continuity with his coach, offensive coordinator and weapons could go a long way.
The Jets could be one of the few teams who could be searching for a new head coach if Todd Bowles is indeed let go. This off-season is going to be a vital one for New York. Free agency and the draft will be that more important –especially to improve their roster around Darnold.
The off-season will also be an important one in the fact that Darnold will need to improve in certain area if he hopes to last in the NFL.