Sam Darnold Turns Ghosts Into Progress, Shows Growth in Jets Week 11 Win
While patience is needed for his development, Sam Darnold is showing that the promise seen last year as a rookie is beginning to be realized. It was another solid game from the New York Jets quarterback, who has pieced together consecutive performances to quell the perception that he isn’t progressing.
Now, after weeks of questioning if he had taken a step backwards, Darnold has shown on the field that he is ready to assume the role of being the franchise quarterback. Off the field, there is a quiet strength that is beginning to come through.
The second-year quarterback is also leading on the field, hanging in the pocket and taking big hits. Off the field, he isn’t backing away from his role in becoming the leader this team needs.
Darnold took another step forward as a quarterback, literally and figuratively in leading the Jets to a 34-17 win over Washington on Sunday. His line: 19-for-30 for 293 yards with four touchdowns and an interception, certainly answers questions about his development. But beyond the numbers, his play did plenty to show that he is the franchise quarterback this team so desperately needs.
And this fanbase so desperately deserves.
Twice in the first half, Darnold showed pocket presence that he wouldn’t have a month ago let alone last year when he was a rookie.
On the Jets first touchdown, Darnold stepped up to evade pressure, rolling out to his left. His touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Brown had perfect touch, a real gem of a pass given that he was throwing across his body. Then the Jets second touchdown pass came with Darnold again flushed out of the pocket and rolling to his right.
This time, he found wide receiver Robby Anderson to put the Jets up 13-0.
Each time, Darnold did the right thing to avoid the edge rush. Each time he bought time for his wide receivers and turned a broken play into points. He hung in the pocket too when there was no place to move, making throws and taking hits. He was overall smart with the ball but it was in his one major mistake from Sunday that he showed another facet to his development.
There is growth of Darnold on the field, and subtle signs of maturity off the field.
And while he had a poor second quarter throw that led to an interception, Darnold owned up to the bad play and took responsibility. It was a stark contrast from three weeks ago at the Miami Dolphins when Darnold clearly threw into traffic on the cusp of halftime, turning probable points on the goal line into a turnover.
In the postgame press conference, Darnold deflected when asked about the throw and said he was trying to throw the ball away. Clearly he wasn’t, given where the ball was placed during his delivery.
Here, Darnold took the blame for the interception. Then at the end of the first half, he orchestrated a quick and efficient drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to tight end Ryan Griffin for a 20-3 Jets lead.
Darnold said the right things off the field in taking responsibility for the turnover. Importantly, he bounced back and led the Jets on a touchdown drive.
Head coach Adam Gase credits Darnold’s growth in recent weeks to the young quarterback finding his voice on the team. In a season where he missed much of the first month of the season due to mono, Darnold is playing with his big boy pants now.
Gase points to Darnold’s growing role as a leader as being shown in the facility, from the film room to the practice field.
For the Jets, this is almost as big of a development as his big numbers and consecutive wins. This team is in rebuild mode and needs leaders to step forward and put this season in context. That Darnold has bought into Gase despite the head coach being protested by a segment of the fanbase sends a message to the locker room that this team’s future is on board with the direction under the first-year head coach.
This is something to sell not only the rest of the season on but free agents moving forward.
For now, however, that Darnold is showing progress, albeit baby steps, is a welcome relief from his struggles of the past two months. Now with consecutive wins for the once floundering Jets, Darnold is back to his promise shown last year.
Promise and potential that now is finally being realized.