With rookie quarterback Sam Darnold here, the New York Jets must avoid former Cowboy Dez Bryant like the plague.
New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan used the third overall pick to draft Sam Darnold, who he hopes can finally solve the team’s quarterback issues. The USC product joins a team with Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, and Robby Anderson at wide receiver.
While on the surface this is a strong wide receiver group, there are concerns with the group. Anderson is likely looking at a suspension to open the season stemming from a January arrest, and Enunwa is coming off a season which he missed with a neck injury.
These concerns have led to some, including safety Jamal Adams, to push for Bryant to join the Jets. Bryant is a three-time Pro Bowler with three 1,000 yard seasons on his resume. However, he hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2014 and produced a career-low 12.1 yards per reception in 2017.
However, there is a simpler reason to avoid Bryant than his faltering stats. He will hurt the development of Darnold.
On the surface, adding a veteran receiver with a track record of success should help a rookie quarterback. However, Darnold isn’t a normal rookie, and Bryant isn’t a normal receiver.
Darnold struggled with turnovers during his two seasons as a starter at USC, producing 22 interceptions in his 27 games. That would obviously be too much for an NFL quarterback, and it’s something that the Jets will hope to reduce.
On the receiving end, Bryant has a history of demanding the ball be thrown his way. Rookie quarterbacks want to keep their receivers happy, which can result in issues should Bryant begin to demand the ball.
Bryant would probably see the most double coverages and get covered by the other team’s top cornerback most weeks. That could lead to Darnold forcing the ball where he shouldn’t just to appease Bryant.
While there are absolutely times where a team should force the ball through coverage to your best receiver, they’re rare. Even more so when it’s a rookie quarterback. Darnold can make all the throws, but the difference between a good and great quarterback is knowing when to make the throws.
Darnold will be best served by playing with a group of talented receivers that all understand that on any play the ball could go to anybody. It frees him up to make the best decision regardless of who has seen a certain number of targets.
Every receiver on this roster right now understands that they need to earn their targets, and that’s the way it should remain. It’s the best way to build a roster and will accelerate Darnold’s development more than surrounding him with players who have a big ego.
Getting Darnold to improve his decision making and getting him practice going through his repetitions will be the most important part of the passing game for the Jets this season. Bringing in an aging receiver who struggles to create separation and has a habit of demanding the ball even when it doesn’t make sense runs contrary to that.
The Jets need to stay away from Dez Bryant in order to get the most out of Sam Darnold.