After each game he starts we will focus on one positive play and one negative from San Darnold, explaining what happened and why (just one positive play this week…it is the holiday!). At the bottom of the article, I will also drop 5 extra observations on the team’s overall offensive performance (this week just focusing on Darnold). For further breakdowns of the film, make sure you are subscribed to us on YouTube.
Let’s Enjoy It
Pittsburgh Bench! At least this is what we called this play at Muhlenberg College. It is a designed rollout where the slot receiver runs a wheel route up the sideline and the outside receiver runs a deep curl route. I can assure you at the high school and college level, somebody is always open on this play if it is blocked up right. It usually doesn’t translate to the NFL but the Jets pulled it off here, thanks to a great seal block by Chris Herndon, field awareness by Darnold to set his feet and step into this throw and Robby Anderson smartly settling into the hole between the safety and corner on the cover two look instead of continuing his vertical route.
This play is basically paradise for the Jets organization with their top young receiver recognizing coverage, running a smart route and making a superb catch on the sideline, their top young tight end blocking well in pass protection and Darnold making a ridiculous throw into a tight window.
Five Other Sam Darnold Observations:
- Two of the most popular comparisons for Sam Darnold before the NFL draft (at least the optimistic ones) were Andrew Luck and Tony Romo. This was a Tony Romo type game from Darnold. The improvisation, the underrated mobility and accuracy outside of the pocket when everything broke down were all there. Darnold elevating the players around him and creating something out of nothing is immensely encouraging at only 21 years old.
- Darnold had his highest rushing total of his season versus Houston at 35 yards. With his mobility, the increasing use of spread offenses (not by this offensive coordinator) and RPO, it feels like he should be a quarterback who regularly runs for 20-40 yards each week. As long as Darnold can protect himself, his mobility is an asset the Jets have to take advantage of.
- Through 11 starts, Darnold only has ONE fumble this season and it was on a botched exchange that appeared to be Isaiah Crowell’s fault. This is a player who had 12 fumbles in 14 games last year at USC. It is impressive that he has cleaned up this issue in a single offseason. Darnold has been particularly mindful this season of keeping two hands on the football when breaking the pocket or when pressure is collapsing around him.
- Darnold’s outlier game versus Miami has jaded far too many people about his rookie year performance. Nearly one third of his turnovers came in that game. Over his past four starts (one of which was versus Miami), Darnold is without a turnover in two of them and had only one in the other. Miami was a disaster and he deserves blame but the situation with Spencer Long and lack of supporting cast needs to be factored into that performance. Darnold has played three of the top seven DVOA defenses in the NFL over his last four starts: Buffalo, Chicago and Houston…his stat line versus them is 54/91 (59%), 576 yards, 6.3 YPA, 67 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. Darnold’s starting receivers versus Chicago were Deontay Burnett, Jermaine Kearse and Andre Roberts…his starting receivers against Houston were the same with Robby Anderson swapped in for Burnett. He has not had Bilal Powell or Quincy Enunwa in any of those games.
- How I would rank the rookie first round quarterbacks this year:
- Baker Mayfield
- Sam Darnold
- Lamar Jackson/Josh Allen
- Josh Rosen