New York Jets – What To Expect From Sam Darnold in Year 3?

Stephen Russo with a deep dive on what to expect from Sam Darnold in year three…

While the Jamal Adams saga finally came to a close this weekend, Jets fans can put the drama behind them and look forward to the 2020 season filled with – you guessed it – so many question marks. The post-Adams-trade Jets are a team that is definitely building for the long haul.  And rightfully so, questions arise on the team’s intention of competing in 2020. The loss of Adams certainly doesn’t improve the defense, but does the addition of McDougald mitigate the loss enough to where it won’t be felt as much? Does the addition of McGovern and Becton on the offensive line make a big enough difference for Sam Darnold and return Le’Veon Bell to his Steeler form? While how much the Jets upgraded is debatable, the moves that were made also make every fan ask the question “Does different necessarily mean better?”

I am here to tell you – the answer doesn’t matter that much.

This season’s success or failure is based on one thing, and one thing only:  Sam Darnold.

The jump that Darnold makes in year 3 will determine what kind of team the 2020 New York Jets become, and everything else is background noise. Now, I am not saying that Darnold is alone, he’s not. The Jets certainly need to help him. The offensive line needs to improve, the running game needs to be better, the return of Chris Herndon has to bolster the passing game like we all hope it would, and Adam Gase certainly needs to do a better job with this offense than he did in 2019. But, what can we expect of Sam Darnold in year 3? What kind of jump would put the Jets in a competitive spot come December? How can we quantify a leap that would make each fan collectively say “this is our guy” as he elevates his teammates?

I took a look at third year jumps of comparable quarterbacks to Darnold to see what kind of variation there was, and what Jets fans could potentially expect. To do this, I went with two qualifiers:

1. Drafted in 2011 or after

2. Started the majority of games from their rookie year to third year (exception made for Patrick Mahomes)

I looked at (what I deemed) the most important stats for a quarterback, and factored in games played to account for any games missed due to injury. The results are somewhat surprising, as the improvement from year 2 to 3 was not as high as you might expect as 7/14 QB’s actually dropped in TD’s thrown from year 2 to year 3 and 8/14 QB’s dropped in total QBR.

Below are the stats of the 14 QB’s analyzed:

  Year 2 Year 3
QB GS Comp CPG Comp % YPG YPA TD INT QBR GS Comp CPG Comp% YPG YPA TD INT QBR
Trubisky 14 289 20.6 66.6 230.2 7.4 24 12 70.8 15 326 21.7 63.2 209 6.1 17 10 39.5
Mahomes 16 383 23.9 66 318.6 8.8 50 12 80.4 14 319 22.8 65.9 288 8.3 26 5 76.3
Watson 16 345 21.6 68.3 260 8.2 26 9 60.7 15 333 22.2 67.3 257 7.8 26 12 68.7
Goff 15 296 19.7 62.1 254 8 28 7 52.1 16 364 22.8 64.9 293 8.4 32 12 63.1
Wentz 13 265 20.4 60.2 254 7.5 33 7 77.2 11 279 25.4 69.6 280 7.7 21 7 62.6
Prescott  16 308 19.3 62.9 207.8 6.8 22 13 69.5 16 356 22.3 67.7 243 7.4 22 8 56.2
Winston 16 345 21.6 60.8 256 7.2 28 18 59.7 13 282 21.7 63.8 270 7.9 19 11 54
Mariota 15 276 18.4 61.2 228 7.6 26 9 59.4 15 281 18.7 62 216 7.1 13 15 58.8
Bortles 16 355 22.2 58.6 276.8 7.3 35 18 51.8 16 368 23.0 58.9 244 6.2 23 16 42.8
Carr 16 350 21.9 61.1 249.2 7 32 13 41.2 15 357 23.8 63.8 263 7 28 6 54.6
Luck 16 343 21.4 60.2 238.9 6.7 23 9 63.7 16 380 23.8 61.7 298 7.7 40 16 62.6
Tannehill 16 355 22.2 60.4 244.6 6.7 24 17 49.3 16 392 24.5 66.4 253 6.9 27 12 59.3
Wilson 16 257 16.1 63.1 209.8 8.2 26 9 66.8 16 285 17.8 63.1 217 7.7 20 7 71.5
Newton 16 280 17.5 57.7 242 8 19 12 58.3 16 292 18.3 61.7 211 7.1 24 13 64.3
Average 15.5 317.6 20.5 62.1 247.85 7.53 28 12 61.5 15 329.6 22.0 64.286 253 7.38 24 11 59.59


Below are the side by side stats for year 2 to year 3:

  Y2 Y3   Y2 Y3   Y2 Y3   Y2 Y3   Y2 Y3   Y2 Y3   Y2 Y3  
QB CPG CPG Diff Comp% Comp % Diff YPG YPG Diff YPA YPA Diff TD TD Diff INT INT Diff QBR QBR Diff
Trubisky 20.6 21.7 1.1 66.6 63.2 -3.4 230.2 209.2 -21 7.4 6.1 -1.3 24 17 -7 12 10 -2 70.8 39.5 -31
Mahomes 23.9 22.8 -1.2 66 65.9 -0.1 318.6 287.9 -31 8.8 8.3 -0.5 50 26 -24 12 5 -7 80.4 76.3 -4.1
Watson 21.6 22.2 0.6 68.3 67.3 -1 260 257 -3 8.2 7.8 -0.4 26 26 0 9 12 3 60.7 68.7 8
Goff 19.7 22.8 3.0 62.1 64.9 2.8 254 293 39 8 8.4 0.4 28 32 4 7 12 5 52.1 63.1 11
Wentz 20.4 25.4 5.0 60.2 69.6 9.4 254 280 26 7.5 7.7 0.2 33 21 -12 7 7 0 77.2 62.6 -15
Prescott 19.3 22.3 3.0 62.9 67.7 4.8 207.8 242.8 35 6.8 7.4 0.6 22 22 0 13 8 -5 69.5 56.2 -13
Winston 21.6 21.7 0.1 60.8 63.8 3 256 270 14 7.2 7.9 0.7 28 19 -9 18 11 -7 59.7 54 -5.7
Mariota 18.4 18.7 0.3 61.2 62 0.8 228 216 -12 7.6 7.1 -0.5 26 13 -13 9 15 6 59.4 58.8 -0.6
Bortles 22.2 23.0 0.8 58.6 58.9 0.3 276.8 244.1 -33 7.3 6.2 -1.1 35 23 -12 18 16 -2 51.8 42.8 -9
Carr 21.9 23.8 1.9 61.1 63.8 2.7 249.2 262.5 13.3 7 7 0 32 28 -4 13 6 -7 41.2 54.6 13.4
Luck 21.4 23.8 2.3 60.2 61.7 1.5 238.9 297.6 58.7 6.7 7.7 1 23 40 17 9 16 7 63.7 62.6 -1.1
Tannehill 22.2 24.5 2.3 60.4 66.4 6 244.6 253 8.4 6.7 6.9 0.2 24 27 3 17 12 -5 49.3 59.3 10
Wilson 16.1 17.8 1.8 63.1 63.1 0 209.8 217.2 7.4 8.2 7.7 -0.5 26 20 -6 9 7 -2 66.8 71.5 4.7
Newton 17.5 18.3 0.8 57.7 61.7 4 242 211 -31 8 7.1 -0.9 19 24 5 12 13 1 58.3 64.3 6
Average 20.5 22.0 1.6 62.1 64.3 2.2 247.9 253.0 5.1 7.53 7.38 -0.2 28 24 -4.1 12 10.7 -1.1 61.5 59.6 -1.9

And below is Darnold’s 2020 projection based on the average difference:

  Y2 PRJ   Y2 PRJ   Y2 PRJ   Y2 PRJ   Y2 PRJ   Y2 PRJ   Y2 PRJ  
  Comp Comp Diff Comp% Comp % Diff YPG YPG Diff YPA YPA Diff TD TD Diff INT INT Diff QBR QBR Diff
Darnold 21 22.6 1.6 61.9 64.1 2.2 232.6 237.7 5.1 6.9 6.8 -0.1 19 15 -4 13 12 -1 43.6 41.7 -1.9



If you take the average statistical difference of a quarterback from year 2 to year 3 and project it to Sam Darnold’s 2020, it leaves much to be desired. A marginal increase in completions per game, completion percentage, and yards per game would not be enough to overcome a drop in TD’s and in QBR – and would leave for a very unsettled and unhappy fanbase.

The stats only tell part of the story, but the numbers don’t lie. And the law of averages state that it’s very possible Darnold regresses in some key areas in 2020.

What the Jets need is for Sam Darnold to not be average. The Jets need this 23-year-old kid to spit in the face of the typical QB stat line, and go be great. Darnold needs a Goff-like jump to make this team better. If he takes a leap similar to Andrew Luck, the entire fanbase would be on cloud nine. Darnold needs to put this team on his back, carry Adam Gase and Dowell Loggain’s lame offense, and raise his and his teammates level of play. What I am particularly interested in is beyond the stat sheet. Does he have the killer instinct? Can he squash a team with a late drive for a score when they’re up 3 points? Can he bring them back from down 4 with a two-minute drill for a TD? Can he hit the big pass in crunch time and not throw a pick? Those are the types of things that determine a winner. The Jets need a QB that the opposition regrets leaving too much time on clock for, not one that will throw a game clinching interception.  Those things don’t show up in the box score, but you know them when you see them. 

It’s time for Darnold to defy logic, counterpunch the law of averages, and be the change this organizations needs. This team needs a big step in the right direction from Sam in 2020, or the cycle of perpetual mediocrity will continue on.

The numbers tell us one story, Jets fans are hoping we can read a different book.