Sam Darnold’s rookie season in the green and white hasn’t been exactly what most people and Jets fans were hoping for. It was expected, as he was the youngest starting QB in the history of the NFL. Since his return from a foot injury two weeks ago, he has had a couple really good games against both the Bills and Texans in weeks 14 and 15. It may finally be the time we see what the Jets were getting when they traded four draft picks back in April.
It was well known that Darnold has issues with ball protection. He was horrendous with it at USC, and that habit definitely followed him to the pros. He’s tied for first in the league in INT’s with 15, playing 3 less games than the QB he is tied with (that being Ben Roethlisberger). After week 9 against the Miami Dolphins, the game in which he got injured, it seemed like Darnold's play couldn’t get any worse. But in the two weeks since his return, he’s actually played surprisingly well. Against the Bills week 14, Darnold sported 67% completion percentage, 170 yards, with 1 TD and 1 INT, and finally an 83.7 passer rating in the win. He played even better the next week against a stronger Houston Texans defense. In that game he posted a 63 completion percentage and 100 passer rating, with 2 TD’s and 0 INT’s (one of only three weeks without a turnover), and 253 yards. Not horrible numbers for a guy that was starting to gain the label of bust.
Darnold has had it rough his rookie season. Plagued by lack of playmakers and absolutely horrendous play-calling haven’t made it any easier on the 21-year old rookie. Up until the injury, Darnold was the starter for the Jets, a role I for one wasn’t exactly sure he was ready for. While playing right from the start surely has it benefits, it doesn’t work for everybody. And for stretches of time earlier in the season, he had shown flashes of brilliance. Sitting for a couple of games, watching veteran Josh McCown in a meaningful game for the first time in his career allowed Darnold to sit and figure out what works and what doesn't work against NFL defenses. Watching Darnold the past two weeks, you can see the improvement. He’s seeing the field a lot better, especially after not throwing an interception against Texans and only one against the Bills, a vast improvement over the beginning of the season.. He also improved his chemistry on the long ball with speedster Robby Anderson, a connection that hasn't really been all that consistent this year. He also moved the ball around a lot, getting the ball to NINE different receivers in an efficient manner. An improvement Jets fans have been waiting for all year.
While Darnold still has a ways to go in his development, his recent performances have showed he's made a ton of improvements. We may soon be in a world where the Jets don't have QB issues.