Sam Darnold's Development Is What the Jets Have Left This Year

Kristian Dyer

Barring the New York Jets winning out the remaining four games of the schedule, the rest of this season doesn’t matter much except for the development and growth of the team’s young core of players. And no player matters when it comes to taking that next step more than quarterback Sam Darnold. 

In what can kindly be called an up-and-down year for Darnold, his maturation is a priority for the 4-8 Jets as this season comes to a whimper. At times, Darnold has looked like his rookie year, where he showed flashes of potential. At other times, he has looked like a true veteran and a franchise quarterback in his prime, a player who has taken a significant step forward as both a quarterback and a leader. 

Then there were other moments when Darnold kissed goodbye to common sense and was haunted by poor decisions. His growth and progress over these last four games will be the defining narrative of a turbulent Jets season to date. 

“It is just the consistency on the ball security. I think he has done a good job of that the last few games. I thought yesterday there was some opportunities for them to get the ball out and he did a good job of securing it and making sure that at least we had possession of the ball,” head coach Adam Gase told the media in a Monday conference call.

“Sometimes punting is a lot better than turning it over and I thought he did that on a couple of his sacks where the ball got kind of loose with the amount of guys that were hitting him and he didn't let it happen.” 

To his credit, he is coming in off a relatively good stretch of games. After a spell in Week 7 and Week 8 when he threw a combined seven interceptions, Darnold has just two interceptions over the next fives games. Three of those games ended up being Jets wins. 

He is making smarter decisions with the ball, not trying to force every pass. The idea that living to snap another play rather than always try to make a play and potentially create a turnover is a sure sign of Darnold’s maturing. 

When asked on Monday about his development and growth, Darnold talked about footwork being an area he would like to see improve. Then he touched on ball control, saying in his own Monday conference call that “Another thing is continuing to be good with ball security, which I feel like I've done a better job of the last few games.” 

In Darnold’s final three games of his rookie season, he didn’t throw an interception. He was however sacked nine times across those three games. 

All three of those games were losses for the Jets.