QB Sam Darnold - New York Jets
|6-4, 225||Born: 6-5-1997||College: Southern California||Drafted: Round 1, pick 2018|
2019 Week 1 vs BUF (28 / 41 / 175 / 1 / 0 pass, 1 / 0 / 0 rush)
For all the talk of a dynamic offense and an improved Sam Darnold, Jets fans were treated with none of that in Week 1. Some of that was the very poor play of the offensive line, which left Darnold scrambling too often while under duress. It's worth noting that while the Bills defense was well-reagarded overall last season, they rarely got to the quarterback. So Darnold being hit nine times and sacked four times could be quite the indictment of this offensive line. That said, there were times Darnold just flat out missed throws. Twice it occurred late in the game when the Jets were trailing by one point with just under three minutes to go and both of those times were on deep routes by Robby Anderson where he was open. The first time, Darnold was extremely lucky the defender didn't hang onto the ball, as it was thrown very short on a 3rd and 1 attempt. The second time, just two plays later, was overthrown by a wide margin. There were flashes to get excited about, such as when he scrambled on a two-point conversion attempt before completing a pass to LeVeon Bell. Still, the bad outweighed the good for Darnold this weekend, and hopefully both the line and gameplan will improve soon.
2019 Week 6 vs DAL (23 / 32 / 338 / 2 / 1 pass, 5 / 1 / 0 rush)
Whether head coach Adam Gase had been holding back or Sam Darnold is just a pure difference-maker, the reality was that the Jets looked like a decent offense for the first time this season against Dallas. Finally fully healthy after having Mono since Week 1, Darnold did a great job managing the football, knowing when to throw the ball and when to scramble, and finding his receivers. He did have one hiccup, a bad throw that wildly overshot Jamison Crowder for an interception, and gave the Cowboys life, but ultimately that was the only real problem on an otherwise great day. While many will point to his 92-yard touchdown throw to Robby Anderson as his best throw of the day -- and it was impressive as well as the longest touchdown pass of Darnold's career -- another one he made, which was called back on a flag in the second quarter with just under 10 minutes might actually have been better. On the play, Darnold dropped back and had plenty of time to scan the field. He turned left and looked off a defender covering Anderson, who was running a short slant. Meanwhile, Crowder ran a nice dig at the end of his route and the defender couldn't stop fast enough. Darnold easily lifted the ball over the defender covering Anderson to Crowder for what should have been a big gain. Despite the flag, the sequence was a great example of Darnolds patience and vision, as well as his ability to get touch on his passes. Another similar pass came with just 10 minutes left in the first quarter, one where Darnold showed even better accuracy when he hit Crowder in stride, over tight coverage. Back to the Anderson touchdown pass, with Darnold back, the Jets opened up the vertical game, with the second-year quarterback throwing a career-high seven passes of 15 or more yards per ESPN's Rich Cimini. If the protection can keep giving him that time, or he can buy it by scrambling, not only will the Jets be more effective passing the ball, but the run game should open up for Le'Veon ball too.
2019 Week 7 vs NE (11 / 32 / 86 / 0 / 4 pass, 2 / -1 / 0 rush)
Every young quarterback has low points, but this was by far the lowest Sam Darnold has ever hit. His decision-making was awful, he consistently threw off his back foot, and he often seemed to have no idea what the defense was doing. His four interceptions were each exemplified by one or all of the problems listed above, two of them in the red zone. He added a fumble during the only time he was sacked. The Jets offensive line was equally putrid in pass blocking, and the Patriots' defense was exceptional, especially when the Jets showed empty backfield. He also had at least two balls dropped which should have been caught, one to Demaryius Thomas for what would have been a big first down in the first half. Darnold rarely got the ball out quickly and the Jets didn't seem to be able to give him quick plays to help with that. Overall, the entire offense was bad and Darnold has never looked this rattled, and while Bill Belichick is a whiz at making first and second year quarterbacks look confused, this was even worse than usual.
2019 Week 8 vs JAX (21 / 30 / 218 / 2 / 3 pass, 1 / -1 / 0 rush)
This week wasn't awful, but only because last Monday against the Patriots set the bar low. It's hard to gain any real insight into Darnold's ability when he's under constant pressure, and the eight sacks, while a lot, could have been added to if not for the odd timely block or scramble by Darnold. The offensive line is awful, the playcalling is sub-par and doing him no favors, and both are contributing to his turnovers. By the same token, he needs to make better decisions. He forces a ball when he should take a sack or throw it away, holds the ball when he needs to get rid of it or run and generally has regressed rather majorly over the course of those season. Darnold does not look prepared to play since returning to active status, but that could be said of the entire team.
2019 Week 9 vs MIA (27 / 39 / 260 / 1 / 1 pass, 2 / 1 / 0 rush)
It was another awful performance by Darnold, who at one point had guard Brian Winters yelling at him. Things actually went well on the first drive, as the Jets drove down the field and Darnold connected with Jamison Crowder on a 15 yard pass where the receiver was wide open as he entered the end zone. Darnold and Crowder actually connected four times on that drive alone. After that nice start, however, things went downhill in a rapid fashion. The low points - and there were ample to choose from - were the mishandled snap that resulted in a safety and his goal line interception. On the safety, Winters thought he saw Darnold signal to snap the ball and motioned for the center to do so. Darnold was not ready, and ball sailed past him into the end zone. On the interception, the Jets were on the three yard line of the Dolphins, and Adam Gase called a pass play. The Dolphins easily got through the offensive line, and pressured Darnold who made an ill-advised throw to the end zone where it was picked off. By now, Darnold should know to either throw the ball out the back of the end zone or just take the sack and so his continued inability to make smart decisions under duress - which, admittedly he is under a lot - is a huge concern as this season has been one of massive regression for him. He was sacked just three times Sunday, but the offensive line isn't giving him much help, and the playcalling is not putting him into positions to succeed.
2019 Week 10 vs NYG (19 / 30 / 230 / 1 / 0 pass, 3 / 25 / 1 rush)
Statistically, Sam Darnold's day wasn't terribly impressive. He only completed 52 percent of his passes, and his completion percentage dropped from 55 in the first half to 50 percent in the second. He only had one passing touchdown as well, and the offense struggled to finish drives with points for much of the second half. However, there were signs that perhaps Darnold might be busting out of his sophomore slump. First and foremost, while his offensive line is still atrocious, Darnold looked much more comfortable in the pocket (when there was one) and did a very good job climbing the ladder in it to step up and away from pressure, and showed a good feel for the rush and when to completely bail out of the pocket. On one play in the late third quarter, on a 3rd and 7, Darnold hung in the pocket as long as he could, but there was nobody open. Darnold saw open space in front of him, though, and took off downfield, gaining 24 yards and a first down. Aside from showing off his wheels, Darnold also did a good job of hitting his receivers in stride, as well as avoiding the poor decisions which have plagued him all season. Of course, the Giants defense is as inept as the Jets defense for the most part, so it's hard to read too much into all of this, but it's a good sign that perhaps Darnold might right the ship before the end of the year.
2019 Week 11 vs WAS (19 / 30 / 293 / 4 / 1 pass, 2 / -3 / 0 rush)
Since back-to-back bad outings against New England and Jacksonville, Sam Darnold has thrown just two interceptions compared to six touchdowns. Darnold had a season high in passing yards, his second highest yards per attempt on the year with 9.8 and looked both calm and poised under center. Admittedly, Washington's defense is not good in any way, but Darnold did an excellent job looking off the defense, moving through his progressions and stepping away from pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. Those last two parts were on display for his first touchdown, a 20-yard throw to tight end Daniel Brown. On the play, Darnold saw the pocket collapsing and squirted out to his left. He had open space to run, and that pulled defender towards him, including the coverage on Brown. The tight end broke free in the end zone, and Darnold immediately tossed the ball to him before the coverage could react. It was Darnold's fourth complete pass in a row and the fourth week in a row the Jets scored on their opening drive. Darnolds second touchdown throw was more straightforward, bootlegging to his right and hitting Robby Anderson on a corner route in the end zone. His third touchdown showed a great read and quick reaction by the quarterback as Darnold saw Ryan Griffin slip behind coverage in zone and delivered the ball quickly before the defense could adjust. On the fourth touchdown, Jamison Crowder did a nice job getting a few steps on his coverage and Darnold threw a dime, dropping the ball right in Crowder's hands along the sideline, catching the receiver in stride for a score. Darnold continues to still have some bad habits, as we saw on his interception. On the play, the offensive line allowed a lot of pressure and Darnold, throwing off balance overthrew his intended target, right into a Washington defender's hands. It was a bad decision and a bad throw, something which continues to be an issue for the second year quarterback.
2019 Week 12 vs OAK (20 / 29 / 315 / 2 / 0 pass, 4 / 16 / 1 rush)
After three very good games in a row, it might be time to stop doubting Sam Darnold, who had perhaps his best day as a pro against the Oakland Raiders, with a high completion percentage, no turnovers and the second most passing yards of the season. Darnold's passer rating of 127.8 is his best this year and the second week in a row over 120. He's thrown 7 touchdowns and just one interception during this win streak, and his completion percentage of 69 came with a yards per completion average of 10.9, his highest this season. Darnold did a good job of avoiding pressure and making smart choices when protection broke down, including taking a sack rather than forcing a throw at one point. While both of Darnold's passing touchdowns were nice, perhaps his best throw came in the late second quarter on a 3rd and 2 play. During the play, Darnold scrambled to his left, and saw Robby Anderson split the zone between two defenders. Still moving to his left, Darnold squared his body and threw with almost a sidearm motion. Darnold had to thread a needle, getting the pass over the low defender and out of his reach while not sailing the ball long and into the far defender. The throw perfectly did that, clearing the outstretched hands of the first defender and finding Anderson open, hitting him in stride so he could continue upfield for a longer gain. It's not only the sort of throw Darnold used to hesitate with, but one when he did throw it, often ended in an incompletion, or worse, an interception.
2019 Week 13 vs CIN (28 / 48 / 239 / 0 / 0 pass, 2 / 9 / 0 rush)
The Jets threw the ball 48 times and ran it just 17 -- against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. With as bad an offensive line as the Jets have, it seems a poor way to position your quarterback for success and the result was that Darnold spent most of the day running for his life as the offensive line failed to block anyone. The Jets never saw t he end zone, and didn't even make it into the red zone on Sunday. All that being said, you can still see some growth in Darnold, as he continues to show improved decision-making and has avoided turning the ball over. Aside from constant pressure, he also had to contend with some drops. Overall, Darnold is far from what we expected this year, but has generally shown improvement.
2019 Week 14 vs MIA (20 / 36 / 270 / 2 / 1 pass, 3 / 3 / 0 rush)
Sam Darnold did enough to win the game - particularly at the end - but it was mostly ugly and the Jets won in part due to a shaky review resulting in a defensive pass interference call to set up the game winning field goal. For some reason, the Jets appear to be moving Darnold out of the pocket less and less, forcing him to stay behind a bad offensive line. It doesn't seem like the offensive is playing to Darnold's strengths, particularly moving outside the pocket. Darnold is also his worst enemy though, missing a wide-open Robby Anderson for what could have been a touchdown and several other receivers during the course of the game. Still, there was that final drive, with Darnold getting the ball trailing 21-19 with just 1:29 left in the game and no timeouts. Darnold nearly got picked off to start the drive, as a defender tried to jump a pass intended for Vyncint Smith, who made the catch and barreled down the sideline for a 37-yard gain. It was a misplay by the defender, as he could have limited Smith on the play if he hadn't tried for the ball and missed. Darnold didn't connect with Jamison Crowder on the next pass, though it was a well-placed ball to the outside of Crowder, who was just too well defended. Darnold was then the victim of a coverage sack, pushing him out of field goal range. Darnold may have been able to throw the ball away, but the pocket disintegrated pretty quickly. Darnold went back to Smith on a short out, but the defender batted the ball away. The officials reviewed the play, and determined the defender was there early, but it was a tough call at that moment, resulting in a first down for New York. Darnold then hit Ty Montgomery on a dump pass, which the running back took for twelve yards and another first down before running out of bounds. The best part of that play was how Darnold didn't force the ball, saw Montgomery open and with room to run and took the play instead of trying to bite off more than he could chew. Darnold has yet to consistently show enough growth in year two, but the final 1:39 of this game was good to see.
2019 Week 15 vs BAL (18 / 32 / 218 / 2 / 1 pass, 1 / 11 / 0 rush)
Once again, Darnold wasn't great but he also wasn't a disaster. He had his second straight game where he had two touchdowns to one interception, but he also fumbled for the second game in a row, this one ending up in the hands of a Baltimore defender. Still, while he's not reaching the heights predicted in August, hes still showing flashes. On his second touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder -- this one late in the game -- Darnold showed poise in a collapsing pocket and patience enough to wait for his receiver to crack enough space for the quarterback to deliver the ball. His throw to Robby Anderson oi the two-point conversion afterwards was also a good one, with Darnold climbing the pocket and then putting the ball where only his receiver could get it. His first throw to Crowder for a score was a nice one as well, as he threaded the ball to his receiver in the end zone, even though Crowder was well covered. Even his fumble wasn't all bad, or all his fault. On the play, Raven Tyus Bowser blew past tight end Trevon Wesco and hammered Darnold's blindside. Darnold could have done a better job holding onto the ball, but ultimately he needed a little more help from the blocker as well. His interception was pretty bad, however, as he wildly underthrew tight end Daniel Brown near the end of the first half, trailing 21-7. It was a terrible place to turn the ball over, and an awful throw.
2019 Week 16 vs PIT (16 / 26 / 183 / 1 / 0 pass, 4 / 3 / 0 rush)
Darnold didn't have a great game, but he wasn't terrible. For a second year quarterback, it's not really the result you want, but it's an improvement over where he was earlier in the season. He turned the ball over once, when he was strip sacked at the end of the first half. Darnold had about three seconds to avoid the sack which came from behind when the right tackle was completely ineffective. Darnold was in the midst of throwing the ball but it was knocked away. His best throw came at the end of the very first drive of the game, as he hit Robby Anderson with a 23-yard touchdown pass. The play, on a 3rd and 9 saw Darnold take the snap from out of a shotgun formation, while Anderson headed downfield into th end zone. Darnold didn't have much time to throw, and got the ball off just before the defense go to him. Anderson was double covered, but Darnold put the ball high and over the head of both defenders, while Anderson jumped up to high point the pass for a score. After that the Jets were relentlessly conservative, and most of Darnold's long gains came because his receivers did an exceptional job gaining yards after the catch.
2019 Week 17 vs BUF (23 / 36 / 199 / 1 / 1 pass, 3 / -2 / 0 rush)
In the final week of the season, facing a defense and team resting key players, Sam Darnold looked fine, though that's less than what fans were hoping for. His single touchdown went to, of course, Jamison Crowderon a short throw across the middle at the start of the fourth quarter. Darnold's interception in the first quarter was also to Crowder. On the play, Crowder was tightly covered, and Darn old threw the ball too far inside instead of towards the sideline where only his receiver could make a play. As Crowder had to slow down and turn back to the ball, the defender was able to get a body part in the way and disrupt his reception. The ball ricocheted off Crowder and into a defender's hands for an interception. The rest of the day was fairly pedestrian with very few mistakes -- and very few exceptional plays -- for the second-year quarterback.
2018 Week 1 vs DET (16 / 21 / 198 / 2 / 1 pass, 6 / -1 / 0 rush)
Things couldn't have gotten off to a worse start for the rookie quarterback Monday night, as his very first throw was picked off and returned for a touchdown. It was a questionable play call which saw Darnold rolling out to his right and then throwing across both his body and the entire field into what should have been an obvious safety. The Jets did a poor job of setting their quarterback up for success on that first play, and Darnold did a poor job of recognizing the play was going poorly and adjusting. In some ways, though, it seemed to take the pressure off Darnold, who came back and played, if not flawlessly, well enough for both the Jets and their fans to be happy. Darnold showed a lot of his good aspects -- resiliency, mobility, an ability to read defenses and adjust -- throughout the game. He also showed some flaws, whether it was underthrowing receivers or missing open routes. His 41-yard touchdown throw to Robby Anderson showed both the bad and the good. On the plus side, he correctly baited the safety into stepping forward, costing the player time, which allowed Anderson to gain a few steps on him as the receiver ran his route downfield. On the negative side, the ball was underthrown, and required Anderson to leap up and fight the defender for the ball. The good far outweighed the bad for Darnold though, and he showed tremendous poise and tenacity in overcoming early miscues to execute the offense.
2018 Week 2 vs MIA (25 / 41 / 334 / 1 / 2 pass, 2 / 1 / 0 rush)
While Sam Darnold had a rough overall game, where he at times looked like the rookie he is, he still showed a lot of ability and toughness. Probably his worst throw came early, when he was baited by TJ McDonald and passed the ball right at the veteran. McDonald appeared to be shading to the middle of the field, but once he saw Darnold look away, he stepped into the passing lane and cut off a pass aimed for the slanting Quincy Enunwa. As is Darnold's habit though, he rebounded and played well most of the rest of the game. He did throw a second interception, but that one very much appeared to be the fault of his receiver Terrelle Pryor. Darnold was looking for Pryor on a slant but the receiver either didn't fully commit to the route or got so caught up in handfighting that he lost track of the ball. The pass was where it should have been, but Pryor wasn't. Darnold did find running back Bilal Powell on a nice intermediate route down the middle which Powell took for a score. Overall, Darnold made mostly good decisions and continues to show some improvement. He didn't get much help from his receivers, who several times dropped wide open passes, but once that stops happening, his production should go up.
2018 Week 3 vs CLE (15 / 31 / 169 / 0 / 2 pass, 0 / 0 / 0 rush)
Much like the rest of the New York Jets, Sam Darnold played two very different halves of football. While not Hall of Fame worthy, his first half was relatively mistake free. The Jets did much of their damage on the ground, but Darnold kept the Browns defense honest. In the second half, Darnold largely fell apart. While one of his two interceptions -- the one which clinched the Browns win -- might have been prevented by Robby Anderson doing more to disrupt the pass, it was still underthrown. His second interception was all on him, however. Darnold rushed the play to avoid a review of the previous first down, and the Browns brought heavy pressure. Darnold failed to see two important things. First, he had a receiver open for a short gain (the only type the Jets seem willing to design for - more on that shortly) and the fact that Jermaine Kearse was bracketed in coverage. Darnold was forced to hold the ball an extra second due to his guard being driven back into his face, but seemed to throw blindly. The Jets have refused to take the training wheels off of Darnold, and the impact is a stale, predictable offense. While Darnold's mistakes hurt the Jets, he will never grow past them if OC Jeremy doesn't let him loose a little. Baker Mayfield came in cold and took chances, and it worked out. At some point the Jets should give Darnold the same chance, but it's hard to see when that will be.
2018 Week 4 vs JAX (17 / 34 / 167 / 1 / 0 pass, 2 / 8 / 0 rush)
To the surprise of no one who has watched the Jaguars defense this year, the Jets rookie's struggles continued this weekend. While his footwork looked good and his short accuracy was once again solid, he struggled on deeper balls and in the second half he tried to thread the needle a few too many times, taking chances which he was lucky didn't turn out disastrous. It could be he's starting to feel pressure to carry the offense, and so he's making some desperate -- but unwise -- passes. That's a concern though, because he missed a few throws high and had an interception on a throw he sailed over Bilal Powell's head called back due to a defensive holding. That was one of three throws in the second half that should have been interceptions, the other two being drops by Jacksonville. He did make a great throw to Jermaine Kearse on a third-and-nine in the third quarter which set the Jets up on a first and goal. On the play Kearse was covered but there was just enough room along the sideline for Darnold to fit the ball in. Kearse then did a great job of keeping his feet in bounds for the catch. Still, the high and wide throws were a concern, and he even managed to miss Quincy Enunwa on a key fourth-and-one late in the first half. While the drive still might not have resulted in a touchdown, it would have extended the drive, salvaged some momentum while the game was 13-0 and kept the Jaguars from scoring quickly in the other direction to make it 16-0. Darnold is a rookie and we are seeing rookie mistakes and growing pains, along with the result of bad offensive line play and a super-conservative game plan as well.
2018 Week 5 vs DEN (10 / 22 / 198 / 3 / 1 pass, 3 / 5 / 0 rush)
The Jets rookie quarterback had what was easily his best day against a Denver Broncos defense which struggled in the secondary and couldn't get past an inspired line save for one sack and a total of three quarterback hits. Darnold also benefited from a great run game, which made sure the defense couldn't afford to focus on just making Darnold a tackling dummy. Darnold's yards per completion jumped up to 19.8, helped by three touchdown passes 20-yards or longer. The first was a 76-yard score by Robby Anderson, which Darnold dropped perfectly in front of the receiver, who didn't have to break stride on his way to the end zone. The second was an absolute dime to Anderson again for a 35-yard score, which Darnold threw over a defender and in perfect placement for the well-covered receiver in the end zone. The final one, a 20-yard pass to Terrelle Pryor, was a little long but Pryor bailed Darnold out a bit with a dynamic one-handed grab. While Darnold's completion percentage is still slumping, his overall ball placement and throws, especially once he got going, showed improvement, and while one game does not a career make, this was a step in the right direction.
2018 Week 6 vs IND (24 / 30 / 280 / 2 / 1 pass, 6 / 8 / 0 rush)
In what was far and away his best outing, rookie Sam Darnold 80 percent of his passes for an average of 11.6 yards per completion, both season highs. After a brutal early interception where Darnold stared down his receiver and threw off his back foot, the former USC quarterback had a nearly flawless day. Darnold made a lot of plays with his feet, buying time outside the pocket and patiently waiting for a receiver to get open, looking to throw rather than run. He also threw some pinpoint accurate passes, like his first touchdown pass late in the second quarter, a 7-yard throw to Terrelle Pryor. On the play, Pryor ran a short route into the end zone and turned around. He was bracketed by a pair of defenders, but Darnold didn't hesitate, fitting the ball between them and right to Pryor. Another promising improvement for Darnold is his improved accuracy on easy throws. Early on this season there were times when Darnold would miss an open target but the last two weeks he has made the easy throws as well as the tough ones. His toss to tight end Chris Herndon in the third quarter, a 32-yard catch and run off a nice play-action fake, was a simple throw to a wide-open target and Darnold made it look as easy as it was.
2018 Week 7 vs MIN (17 / 42 / 206 / 1 / 3 pass, 6 / 18 / 1 rush)
Being brutally honest, this was an awful game from Sam Darnold. Yes, he had some nice moments, but for the most part his throws were off target and he made numerous bad decisions which led to turnovers or missed opportunities. These things will happen with rookie quarterbacks. It's worth pointing out that he was working with mostly special teams and practice squad players at wide receiver and that there were times where those guys just weren't where they were supposed to be. His three interceptions showed both sides of the coin. Darnold's fourth quarter interception by the Vikings Trae Waynes came off a perfectly thrown pass that bounced off the hands of Charone Peake. Backup Holton Hill picked Darnold off just before Waynes did on a ball which wasn't well thrown by any means, but certainly appeared as if receiver Andre Roberts wasn't where Darnold thought he would be. The first interception, in the third quarter was a Harrison Smith pick off a tipped ball by Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes. Darnold should have seen Rhodes had Robby Anderson well covered, and either adjusted his throw to go deeper towards the sideline or simply gone another way. He locked onto Anderson early though, and never adjusted. The best case scenario was an incompletion, but Darnold ended up with the worst case scenario instead. Darnold also suffered through numerous bad drops by his receivers on what could have been some significant gains. On one play, Darnold dodges a pass rusher on 3rd and 12, moved to his right and hit a wide-open Eric Tomlinson with only one defender between him and the end zone. Tomlinson dropped the pass. The good parts are still there for Darnold, and while he had a lot of self-inflicted wounds, he also needs more help from his supporting cast.
2018 Week 8 vs CHI (14 / 29 / 153 / 1 / 0 pass, 5 / 22 / 0 rush)
It's really hard to completely judge Sam Darnold with the supporting cast around him right now. His best receiver is Jermaine Kearse, who disappeared in the second half of the game and was hurt during the course of it, and Deontay Burnett, Darnold's old college teammate. That lack of weapons robs Darnold of reliable players who can hang on to the ball, and also gave the coaching staff an excuse to not test the Bears deep. Mediocre receivers who can't get open forces Darnold to scramble and hope that he can outlast the pass rush so a receiver gets open, which is no way to run the offense. A lack of run game hurts as well, and the Jets were third-and-long time after time on nearly every drive. That is not to absolve Darnold of mistakes, and even on his one scoring drive, Darnold nearly got picked off. At the end of the day, though, Darnold played fine, showing good decision-making, throwing no picks and not getting stripped of the ball. Against a tough Bears defense, that's not bad.
2018 Week 9 vs MIA (21 / 39 / 229 / 0 / 4 pass, 0 / 0 / 0 rush)
There is a lot to unpack here, but the bottom line is this was a debacle for Darnold. The rookie looked every bit a lost soul in the backfield, made some horrendous decisions and looked as though he had completely forgotten how to throw the ball. Darnold's mechanics were terrible on Sunday, and that plus some truly horrible decisions added up to a day he will likely try to wipe from memory. As bad as Darnold was, the play of center Spencer Long was worse. Long, who supposedly re-injured a dislocated middle finger during the game, was a disastrous blight on the offense, with snaps going high, low, to the side and everywhere but to Darnold. What was truly baffling was the coaching staff's refusal to pull Long until late in the game, even though his antics were clearly making Darnold's already no-good, very bad day even worse. Darnold was also the victim of multiple drops and Jermaine Kearse who set up to catch a ball with his feet out of bounds. Darnold looks as though he has regressed, with a lack of ability to read defenses and a proclivity to force the ball where it shouldn't go resulting in four interceptions. While the Jets hope this is a low-water mark, if they don't make some changes around Darnold and how they handle him, this could be the start of a downward slide.
2018 Week 14 vs BUF (16 / 24 / 170 / 1 / 1 pass, 4 / 10 / 0 rush)
In his first action since Week 9, the rookie looked better as the game went on, his day culminating in a very nice nine play, 61 drive to put his team ahead for good near the end of the fourth quarter. Doing that in the cold, on the road was the most impressive part of the drive, but it's worth noting that it was the rare time when head coach Todd Bowles took a chance and went on fourth down to win, versus just playing to tie. That gave Darnold the opportunity to win a game, even if the play to do it was a handoff to Elijah McGuire. Darnold was 3-of-5 passing on that drive, including a dime to Robby Anderson down the sideline to put the Jets on the Bills' front doorstep. On that play, Anderson was pretty well covered by the corner, but managed to give himself enough room along the sideline for Darnold to throw. The quarterback fired off a perfect pass, over his receiver's outside shoulder where the corner couldn't make a play, and Anderson did a nice job of getting both feet in for a 37-yard gain. Another impressive effort resulting in an Anderson catch was on an earlier drive to tie the game at 20. On the play, a 3rd-and-5 in the fourth quarter, the Jets were on the Bills 7- yard line. Darnold dropped back to pass but found nobody open and was flushed out of the pocket by defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Darnold moved to his right, evaded a diving Williams, and then with several Buffalo defenders nipping at his heels, cut left and ran upfield. During this, Darnold did an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield and scanning for an outlet. He eventually found one in Anderson along the middle of the end zone and delivered a perfect pass for the score. Darnold looked a tad rusty to start the game, but came alive in the fourth quarter and overall showed some of the skills which had Jets fans excited early in the season, despite the usual conservative playcalling for much of the game. What's more, he did it against what has been considered one of the best pass defenses in the NFL this season.
2018 Week 15 vs HOU (24 / 38 / 253 / 2 / 0 pass, 6 / 35 / 0 rush)
For the second week in a row, rookie Sam Darnold looked really good, hitting just over 63 percent of his passes and averaging 10.54 yards per completion. The completion percentage is significantly higher than his overall year average of 55.5 percent, although slightly down from the 66.7 he notched last week against the Bills. The Jets are seeing a significant improvement in their first round pick, and not just in terms of statistics. Darnold is making better decisions, and being more careful with the ball. While he still dodges some bullets when defenders drop a pass that should have been an interception, those are less frequent. He did spend a ton of time scrambling behind an offensive line suffering from shoddy play again this week, but for the most part he showed a great deal of ability to extend the play with his legs until a receiver came open or he could gain some yardage himself. Darnold was a big factor in the Jets coming back at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second as he orchestrated two sharp drives capped off with a touchdown each time. The first time, on a score to Robby Anderson, Darnold had to step up through the offensive line to buy time to throw the ball. Darnold showed excellent field awareness, making sure he didn't cross the line of scrimmage and delivered a perfect pass to Anderson along the back of the end zone. The second throw was to Andre Robertson a 3rd-and-5 from the Houston 13 yard line. Darnold had plenty of time and saw Roberts shake his coverage a little with a double move. Darnold short-armed the pass a little, so it ended up behind the receiver just a little, but Roberts adjusted and made a nice catch. Perhaps his best throw, however, was to tight end Chris Herndon in the fourth quarter to extend a drive on a long third down. On the play, Darnold was flushed from the pocket and ran to his right, eyes downfield the entire time. He could have run for a couple of yards, but would have been well short of a first. Instead, he saw Herndon downfield with a man covering him along the sideline. He needed to make a pinpoint thrown in order to put the ball over a defender's head while also keeping it away from the coverage along the sideline, and he did so, giving his tight end a nice pass for a big gain.
2018 Week 16 vs GB (24 / 35 / 341 / 3 / 0 pass, 3 / 4 / 0 rush)
Since coming back from injury in Week 14, Sam Darnold has improved every week, culminating in Sunday's performance against the Green Bay Packers. In about as flawless a performance as any rookie quarterback this season, Darnold completed 68.5 percent of his passes, and didn't turn over the ball once, and in fact hasn't turned the ball over since his interception in Week 14, with six touchdowns compared to one touchdown. Darnold also led the Jets down the field on a pair of drives to take the lead and extend it in the third quarter. Unfortunately, his final drive stalled and the Jets had to settle for a field goal, sending the game into overtime, where the Packers scored on the only possession of the half. Darnold's first touchdown was an easy catch-and-run for Robby Anderson, who has become the rookie's favorite target. The Packers bit hard on a fake screen pass to Elijah McGuire, and Darnold was quick to turn and hit a wide open Anderson, who took it the last ten yards for a score. Darnold hit fellow rookie Chris Herndon for another wide open touchdown, this time with a nice look-off of the coverage while Herndon slipped out into the flat, improving the lead to 28-20. His final touchdown was a dump off to running back Elijah McGuire for a 20-yard score, with the Packers bringing a little pressure. While none of these throws were incredible, the performance overall was very good, with Darnold showing patience on each drive regardless of situation, awareness of what that situation was, and the wisdom to avoid forcing throws which weren't there.
2018 Week 17 vs NE (16 / 28 / 167 / 0 / 0 pass, 1 / 28 / 0 rush)
After multiple strong games after returning from injury, Sam Darnold ran into Bill Belichick, who has a penchant for messing with rookie quarterbacks and the result was not pretty, but not tragic either. Darnold struggled, and behind a line which has consistently let the team down this year, was sacked four times. Some of that was on Darnold, but the constant pressure made sure any onlooker know it wasn't all his fault. While he failed to notch a touchdown there were still several impressive throws. One came in the middle of the second quarter with the Jets already down 21-3. On a 3-and-9 at his own 49 yard line, Darnold lined up with three receivers on his right, two of them stacked. Fellow USC rookie Deontay Burnett was one of the stacked players and ran a deep out, right into space cleared by the outside receiver. Burnett had a step on his coverage, but the defender wasn't that far behind. Darnold dropped a perfect pass along the sideline over the defender's head where Burnett made a nice grab. Darnold did cough up a fumble which the Patriots returned for a score. Darnold clearly felt pressure and adjusted but when attempting to extend the play with his legs, the ball was stripped. While this was a major concern coming out of USC, it hasn't been an issue this season, but this time it was. Overall, Darnold showed a nice progression this season, especially in the last four games and even though the Pats had his - and the Jets' - number, he performed well enough to make Jets fans very happy.