With Jamal Adams gone, the New York Jets are now Sam Darnold's team

Seth Everett

As long as former New York Jets safety Jamal Adams was the team’s only All-Pro, he was the face of the franchise. It may have changed without a trade, but NFL insider John Clayton says it is now time for Sam Darnold to become the face of the New York Jets.

“The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and if the quarterback is not the face of the franchise, then the franchise is going to be drafting in the top 10,” Clayton said in an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated’s Jets Country. He noted that the offensive can only improve from being the No. 31 ranked offense in the NFL last year.

Clayton is one of the preeminent national personalities covering the NFL. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, Clayton was with ESPN from 1995-2017.

Darnold improved from his first to his second season in the NFL. His completion percentage improved (59.9 to 61.9) while throwing more touchdowns, cutting back on interceptions and upping his passing yards.

He did have other issues. He was sacked 33 times, three more than 2018. Last season, he did have the infamous “seeing ghosts” comment and also battled mono and missed four games. With an improved offensive line, he could take that next step. If he does, he becomes the Jets superstar.

"I think for me it's continuing to play good football and just be the same person I am off the field," Darnold said to NewYorkJets.com. "Nothing is going to drastically change. I'm sure being in the second year of the system, I might help out some guys more often than I would have last year because I was still getting comfortable as best I could. Right now, I think it's about continuing to do what I've been doing."

Clayton points out the health and production of running back Le'Veon Bell will be a key to Darnold’s ascension. He also says the new additions have to gel quickly and that will be difficult with no preseason games. 

“What you wonder is how tough is it going to be, with four possible new starting offensive linemen, that's going to lead to a possible slow start,” he said. “Then when you're looking at (the wide receivers), are they good enough at the wide receiver position to make it work?”

Clayton’s question about the receivers is if newly acquired Breshad Perriman and second round draft pick Denzel Mims can join Jamison Crowder and tight end Chris Herndon can become a nucleus of targets for Darnold to sync with. If they can, the Jets offense can be respectable.

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