Sam Darnold enters training camp with all eyes on him, both locally and nationally. Only one thing… Darnold has JUST signed his contract. This has caused him to miss all three practices and every meeting in training camp thus far, which in turn will bring even more attention to Darnold and his progress that will be watched even more closely…
Ideally, this would have been a piece just breaking down how Sam Darnold would perform this summer and how he would be covered in comparison to other 1st round quarterbacks the last couple of years but this holdout changes everything. No quarterback will be covered the same as this one here.
First, look at the poor history at quarterback for this franchise, now everybody is looking at this 21 year old as the “savior”. Second, Darnold was traded up for at the third pick, with a pick being used on you that highly, you are expected to be competing for the starting job come week one. Lastly, being in New York with the ruthless fans and media does not help in the slightest. With all of this on his shoulders in addition to this holdout, the pressure to perform right away will be through the roof. He has missed some valuable time with his teammates and coaching staff to help him progress but not enough to be overly concerned. Darnold isn’t the perfect prospect, he does have things he must improve on such as decision making, footwork, etc. so there will be some hurdles to get over at first. This is very unfortunate because you know every struggle he shows, it will all be brought back to the holdout and people will jump all over it.
Over the last two years, there were six quarterbacks taken in the first round: Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson. None of these guys went through anything like Darnold is about to undergo this summer. In the 2016 class, Goff and Wentz were competing for starting jobs but everyone knew Lynch was not. Goff struggled in the preseason with some turnovers and did not look comfortable in the pocket (keep in mind this was pre-McVay). As for Wentz, after Sam Bradford was traded from Philadelphia right before week 1, Wentz was officially the guy but had a little leeway coming from a DII school and missing most of the preseason with a hairline rib fracture.
In last year’s quarterbacks class, Trubisky and Mahomes both lit up the preseason however neither was expected to start right away with Mike Glennon signing a pretty hefty contract with Chicago and Alex Smith having been the guy in Kansas City for a few years. Watson on the other hand had the clearest path to start but had an up and down summer, leading him to start on the bench behind Tom Savage for what ultimately ended up being for one half. With all of this being said, the situations these six quarterbacks went through do not remotely compare to what Sam Darnold will experience over the next six weeks.
With Darnold back in camp, everything will somewhat get back to normal. During the first couple practices he might start off getting a few first team reps and more with the third team than initially anticipated, gradually gaining more and more reps with the first team as the summer goes on. Because he only missed three practices it shouldn’t hold him back too much and should still get some playing time when their first game on August 10th. However, if not the first game, then it should be the Sam Darnold show in weeks two and three. Last year the Jets showed how they didn’t need to play McCown in the preseason and they have to make sure Bridgewater stays healthy if they really do look to trade him. So getting all of this playing time with the first team in these two games would really help him and give the Jets a better idea of what to do against the Lions in week 1 of the regular season. And if he performs even close to McCown and/or Bridgewater, it should be a very simple for Todd Bowles when the time comes.
The bottom line is that Darnold will have pressure filled first summer in the NFL. But this is part of the reason why the Jets drafted him. Not only do they believe has the skill set to be a great quarterback but has the mentality to block out all of the negative comments and to continue to work on his craft. We just have to be thankful that it didn’t drag out like Joey Bosa’s holdout did in 2016 and we can all finally enjoy the Summer of Sam.