Sam Darnold
Getty Images

New York Jets young Sam Darnold is, by far, the most talented of the three quarterbacks (Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater) on the depth chart.

FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—It’s not easy to spot when all three quarterbacks break off into positionals. Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold all look terrific when doing their own thing with quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates along with, at times, assistant QB man Mick Lombardi.

Each man throws fluidly with zip and accuracy. But then practice moves forward and “teams” eventually becomes the name of the exciting game.

It’s at this point the cloud lifts and the New York Jets quarterback puzzle crystalizes.


Sam Darnold is, by far, the most talented of the three and it’s not even close.

OK, so declaring Darnold, the third overall pick of the 2018 draft the most talented against a 39-year-old career journeyman and kid who’s coming back from one of the more dangerous knee injuries of all-time isn’t much to write home about. It’s an obvious, stale statement.

The point to take home today is that the talent level between Darnold the other two is wider than it should be. Even top 10 picks find themselves entering a world of similar talent. Darnold, at this very moment, is not. The talent gap is much larger than most would have believed.

On Wednesday, the kid oozed talent.

At the 10-yard-line during red zone drills, Darnold found himself under serious pressure with the clock winding down. Instead of panicking in the form of a thrown away ball in the stands, the kid pump-faked his way to a score.

Tight end Clive Walford came away with the catch on a left-side seam out as Darnold fit in an impossible ball to him that was only possible after the pump-fake. His eyes allowed that minuscule window to present itself.

Just a few reps later he did it again.

New York Jets

Once again in red zone, Darnold found another tight end, Neal Sterling. This time he hit Sterling in the only possible spot the ball could go for the score. A little shorter and the play doesn’t happen or worse, could result in a turnover. On the corner route with a defender draped all over him and another nearby, Darnold couldn’t have handed it off any more perfectly.

Then teams in the form of true 11-on-11 started and the kid experienced struggles.

On one particular play, corner Terrell Sinkfield picked off Darnold.

It was a Cover 3. Darnold couldn’t find anybody underneath on his first read yet knew he had his deep threat on the left side on a 9-route. Initially, he beat Sinkfield off the jump. The problem came when Darnold decided to not only underthrow the ball, but release it and make the decision entirely too late.

The single-high safety was there in plenty of time as the over-man and Sinkfield picked it off in a trail position.

In fact, Darnold struggled mightily on this Wednesday afternoon—especially the few times he was matched up against the first-team secondary.

Just don’t confuse “talent” with “performance.” Don’t confuse “talent” with “readiness.”

Darnold’s readiness isn’t quite there yet. This isn’t to say he can’t come out against Atlanta on Friday night and light the scoreboard up. He has every tool the book to do so. The point here is that his readiness max isn’t close to fulfilling itself. There’s so much more to do.

Pocket presence, overall arm talent, intangibles, and even moving through progressions at the big-boy level—yeah, it’s all there. Darnold possesses everything necessary.

What it may come down to is that extra gameday factor. Does the kid possess that gene of performing at the highest level when the spotlight is shining brightest?

While factors such a those remain unsettled, the one thing that’s certain is the kid’s talent level. Sam Darnold is, by far, the most talented quarterback on the New York Jets roster.

New York Jets

Please SUBSCRIBE to ESNY's Daily Newsletter, ESNY City Stream. Every piece of content included yet CUSTOMIZED to your New York Sports-team allegiance:

ESNY City Stream

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU