After a rough showing on Sunday, quarterback Sam Darnold doesn’t just have support in the New York Jets locker room. There are believers that Darnold can rebound after a downright terrible Week 3 performance in a 36-7 loss at the Indianapolis Colts.
On Sunday, Darnold had one of the more difficult to comprehend performances of his NFL career, completing 17-of-29 passes for 168 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Two of those interceptions were returned by the Colts for a touchdown. With the loss, the Jets are a disappointing 0-3.
It wasn’t as bad as his game last year against the New England Patriots where he saw “ghosts.” It also wasn’t as rough as a year ago in midseason when he struggled with ball security in games at the Jacksonville Jaguars and at the Miami Dolphins.
But yet, it was still not a good game and worrying one at that.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating whenever games don’t go the way that you want, or whenever you lose in general. It’s never fun and it can be frustrating,” Darnold said on Monday. “For us, we really just have to figure out what we’ve got to do and what we’ve got to do better. We’ve got to continue to learn and get better every single day.”
The difficulty lies in part with expectations. The concerns stem from the fact that he taken third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, a pick that the Jets moved up in the draft to obtain.
In training camp, Jets head coach Adam Gase praised Darnold repeatedly. His 23-year old quarterback, he said, had made progress and built on his strong close to last season.
He knew the playbook.
Darnold, was ready to take the next step.
Then in Week 1 at the Buffalo Bills, the Jets opened the game with four straight punts. On their fifth possession, Darnold threw an interception.
Gase has yet to bench Darnold despite a couple of rocky performances. The reasoning according to Gase is that Darnold needs these reps, even the bad ones.
“I feel like that’s always a tough decision because he’s 23-years-old and he’s in his third year and I think every snap that he takes in a real game, they’re so valuable. They’re learning experiences, you have to go through tough situations sometimes, it’s not always going to be smooth,” Gase said.
“You’re going to go through times where it’s tough on him. I mean, it’s tough on, when we’re trying to call plays and things aren’t going the way we want them too, but that’s kind of what we’re having to have to go through right now. And I think he just needs to keep playing, needs to keep playing, fixing the mistakes that are made and then really emphasizing the things that he’s doing really well and just keep building on those.”
Up until now, however, it wasn’t likely that anyone the Jets brought in off the bench would be able to perform at a reasonable level.
But this week, a positive for the Jets is that Joe Flacco is now ready to be a backup behind Darnold. The former Super Bowl MVP, who had offseason neck surgery, is a veteran presence who can step in right away and potentially spell Darnold if the struggles continue. He is practicing and could dress on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos.
Flacco, who has had a long successful career in the NFL including winning a Super Bowl, can be a good mentor for the Jets third-year quarterback.
“When you get down at a football game, if you're out on the schoolyard and you go out there and you're just slinging around and whatever happens happens, you know, it doesn't really matter,” Flacco said. “But you know, in this league things tend to be a little bit different than that. So you just got to keep playing.”