In Sam Darnold, the New York Jets are hoping to finally have landed a franchise quarterback. Their last franchise quarterback, Chad Pennington, compares Darnold favorably to one of the best quarterbacks currently in the NFL and a future Hall of Fame selection.
Pennington sees some of Aaron Rodgers in Darnold.
Arguably the best quarterback in New York Jets franchise history not named Joe Namath, it is high praise from Pennington to compare Darnold to an eight-time Pro Bowl selection in Rodgers. Check any list of top quarterbacks currently in the NFL right now and Rodgers is a consensus top three pick if not the name at the top of the board.
Rodgers has one of the best arms in the NFL and not only consistently wins and gets the Packers into the playoffs, he also puts up statistically monstrous numbers.
So to compare Darnold, even so slightly, to a legend like Rodgers is noteworthy. Pennington has no problems saying that he sees a lot of the Green Bay Packers quarterback shining forth in Darnold. That isn’t to say that Darnold is a clone or will be as good as Rodgers, but simply that Pennington sees some of the traits that make Rodgers the best quarterback in the NFL being shown in Darnold’s current progression as a second-year quarterback.
“Off the top of my head, I think he has Aaron Rodgers’ ability to extend plays with his feet, make off balance throws, be accurate down the field,” Pennington told SportsIllustrated.com’s Jets Maven.
“You see some of that. I don’t know if his arm strength is like that but just that knack of being able to make off balance throws and extend plays with his feet and still be a passer. There’s a comparison there I’d say and how they play and their movement.”
Twice the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Pennington led the NFL in passer rating in just his third season. He’s a former first round pick of the Jets in the 2000 NFL Draft.
As for Darnold’s growth, Pennington believes that it can take a step forward if the young quarterback gets some improved protection. The offensive line was a weak point of the Jets this year, a unit that was neglected much of the past three years.
If the Jets can add some quality to their line this offseason, then they could stand to see improvement from Darnold in 2020.
“I think you start there and you make sure your quarterback is protected and you have a system in place that can help him – I think all quarterbacks need that, regardless of their skill and talent around them – the skill players you have and keeping the quarterback clean,” Pennington said.
“To be able to really fortify the offensive line and make sure that Sam can stay upright and be able to make plays, that is always a key.”