Marc Ross Talks Jets Sam Darnold: 'He's A Pro Bowl Caliber Talent'

Kristian Dyer

After a season that started rough and finished with a flourish, Sam Darnold’s second year in the NFL was certainly not short of learning experiences. But to veteran NFL talent evaluator Marc Ross, Darnold’s growth in the upcoming 2020 season not only impacts the direction of the Jets rebuild but shows where the player’s career is likely headed. 

The Jets have invested a lot in Darnold, trading up in the 2018 NFL Draft to nab a selection so as to pick the USC quarterback. Through two years, Darnold has shown plenty of not just promise but real, tangible reasons for hope. Not since Joe Namath has this franchise seen a quarterback with so much potential. 

Over the course of this past season, he showed positive growth and gains in passing yards, touchdowns, lowered his interceptions and upped his completion percentage. Not to mention, he increased his win total from his rookie season to his second year in the league. 

Ross, who spent 10 years with the New York Giants recently as Vice President of Player Evaluation and has held personnel posts with the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles, had some high-level praise for the Jets franchise quarterback. 

“I thought that at his best, he’s a Pro Bowl caliber talent and he has the ability to be raise the level,” Ross told SportsIllustrated.com. 

“He’s got a toughness about him, he’s got the playmaking gene. He showed in college and showed in flashes here. The problem with Sam, even in college coming out, has been with turnovers. Unfortunately, you’re still seeing that. When guys turn the ball over, they most times will break out of that. If he starts out again next year turning the ball over again, it’s going to be, I  think…that as a player capable of spectacular plays, being able to put the team on his back. And then then also crippling a team with the turnovers and the inconsistencies. I think this is going to be a make or break year for Sam to share who he is as a player.” 

The issues with Darnold this year, were largely out of his control. While he struggled with turnovers during the first half of the season – something which was very much his own doing - he cut that number back considerably as the year wore on. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the drop in interceptions came at a time when the Jets beleaguered offensive line did a better job of protecting Darnold, the better protection going hand-in-hand with Darnold’s improved judgment. This also coincided with an uptick in the ground game as well, providing a complement to a more efficient passing offense in the second half of the season. 

Darnold certainly needs to cut back on the turnovers to continue his growth, but there were promising signs over the season’s final eight games that things were coming together for him under center and in the pocket. Evidence of this growth was clearly seen in the Jets 6-2 record to close out the season, giving them a 7-9 record. 

Ross noted that the Jets rebuild is totally dependent on where Darnold’s development goes. 

“I think everyone bases it on Sam and the promise that he showed at the end of last season. He had his first start then gets sick and it sets everything back. The whole program is based on how good Sam Darnold will be. If he starts next year on fire and takes a major step and makes everyone better, he brings [up] the level of everyone else,” Ross said. 

“But if he struggles and is inconstant with turnovers again, then they will kind of be stuck in the same rut that they are now and the wins will reflect [that] on the field. Sam’s the key with how much he’s going to develop and what step he will take.” 

Ross currently works in an analyst role for the NFL Network. 

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