Lost in the details about Sam Darnold and his performance on Thursday night is the intangibles he showed to become the New York Jets franchise quarterback. Now it is about putting a team around him that can do just that.
Darnold gutted it out on Thursday night in a 37-28 loss to the Denver Broncos. On the Jets second possession, Darnold was sacked by Broncos linebacker A.J. Johnson, in the process getting picked up and thrown down to the turf. While he played one more snap, Darnold ended up leaving the game and he missed several snaps.
He returned from an MRI on his shoulder in the locker room and onto the field. That little moment, including his throwing the ball on the sideline with intensity and velocity, showed exactly that the Jets have someone who wants to gut it out. It was a message sent to his teammates, that the blue chip quarterback is there through thick and thin.
Those moments, of Darnold noticeably wincing as he warmed up on the sideline in the second quarter, underscored that the Jets have a gamer.
“I’ve had something similar so I wasn’t too worried,” Darnold said after the game. “Once they told me they felt like I could go out there again, that’s when I started to get excited and, obviously, got back out there.”
On Friday, Jets head coach Adam Gase said Darnold has a sprained shoulder.
The read on Darnold’s performance is clouded by the injury. Before being tossed to the ground, he led the Jets on a touchdown drive where he ran for 46 yards for what became a 7-0 lead.
It was the Jets first lead of the season.
He finished 23-of-42 for 230 yards and the rushing touchdown. He also was sacked six times, part of 10 quarterback hits the Jets allowed in the game.
These circumstances, coupled with the Jets injuries along the offensive line and at wide receiver, make it impossible to judge his performance against the Broncos. The now 0-4 Jets are a mess.
Darnold is the least of the issues the Jets have right now.
The fact that he was competent and didn’t turn the ball over despite the injury and the dumpster fire going on around him is proof enough that Darnold has something to groom and develop. The Jets actually have to put a functioning team around him to see what he is capable of doing.
So far, through his first three years in the NFL, the 23-year old quarterback hasn’t had much to work with.
Writing Darnold off because of Week 4 or even based on this disaster of a season is premature.
“There was a lot of good. I thought he did a really unbelievable job as far as just seeing his toughness and his willingness to go from the locker room and run right out there on that third down. That was very impressive to see what kind of competitor he was,” Gase said on Friday.
“There are some things that we definitely need to get cleaned up to where he moves on in his progression or we spit the ball out just a tick sooner. I looked at it, I’ve seen a few plays to where you see him go through the progression and it’s exactly what you want, and we’ve just got to keep helping him be more consistent in that area. If we can get him to where he starts eliminating things, whether it be pre-snap or quicker during the play, which I saw him do quite a few times last night, that’s what you want. But at the same time, we’re trying to find a way to get one open as many times as possible.”