Sam Darnold had an encouraging debut for the New York Jets against the Atlanta Falcons. In this week’s film room breakdown, we are going to take a closer look at two of his best plays of the night. For further breakdowns of the film, make sure you are following us here.
On The Move13 yard completion to Andre Roberts on 3rd and 11
The Jets run a basic, boot concept away from Darnold’s strong hand. He fakes the outside zone handoff and loops around the free rusher who is sucked in by his play action. Rolling to his left, Andre Roberts is the primary target as the front side slot on the drag route, while the back side slot runs a short whip route to create different levels and open a window for Roberts. Chad Hansen runs an a go route as the back side split end and breaks back to the comeback when he can’t get over the top of the corner. The backside split end runs a post route.
The two most impressive things from Darnold on this play are the play action, which is sold through well enough to suck in the free rusher and the way he squares up his throw despite rolling to his weak side. Look how his entire body is facing Roberts when he releases the football, which allows for an accurate throw into a tight window. This is advanced footwork for a 21 year old rookie. Many quarterbacks will get anxious when they see the open receiver, not take the time to square up and set their feet leading to an inaccurate pass across their body.
Patience In Pocket
18 yard completion to Clive Walford on 1st and 15
The front side routes basically function as a smash/fan concept, with Tre McBride running a short in route from the outside and Clive Walford running a deep out route from the slot. Sam Darnold is reading whether the cornerback squats on the short route opening up a throwing window to the deeper route or seeing if he bails off, opening up an easy short completion.
What is encouraging about Darnold on this play is the patience. Most quarterbacks, particularly when there is pressure around them, would have quickly dumped the ball off to the in route for a 5-7 yard gain. The cornerback appears to bail at first but since Darnold is patient, he is able to see the corner pivot and close down on the in-route, leaving a wide open window for Walford. Darnold hangs in the pocket and drops the ball in to him for a 18 yard gain. After watching Josh McCown repeatedly throw short of the sticks last year, it is exciting to see a quarterback be patient enough to let the bigger plays develop down the field. If he isn’t a check down quarterback now, there is no reason to think he will be further down the road as he continues to develop and learn.