New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold once again showcased why the preseason is much more than about strictly numbers.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY—If you looked closely, Sam Darnold actually ran through the tunnel and into the MetLife Stadium parking lot on Friday night.
CBS simply didn’t put cameras on it.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) August 24, 2018
In playing a full half and a series, the young New York Jets starting quarterback (at least, for now) finished 8-for-16 for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in the team’s friendly annual August rivalry known as the Snoopy Bowl. On the surface, the stats look mediocre, even for a 21-year-old No. 3 choice out of USC.
Those mediocre stats automatically turn tremendous when realizing the handicap present in the form of the team’s offensive line.
Brian Winters returned from injury to start at right guard. Starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum remained sidelined. This meant Brett Qvale started in his stead and, along with other porous areas up front, forced the rook to run for his life on too many plays.
Of course, the first negative reaction of a horrid O-line is that defenders squeeze through, forcing Darnold to scramble, run for his life and be forced to throw on the run. The more important aspect of playing behind such a disaster relates to how Jeremy Bates needs to think about his gameday job.
This Jets offense literally cannot attack downfield.
Through three preseason games, Darnold’s yards per attempt is five yards and change. It’s an epically telling stat. It’s also somewhat understandable considering who the left tackle is while replacing Beachum over the last couple weeks.
Heading into Week 3, Darnold’s yards per average was stuck at a cool 5.4 (21-of-28 for 158 yards). That’s exactly the same number he finished with against the Giants. Never did he stretch the field. Never did he even have the chance. Never did Bates look to capitalize on Robby Anderson’s speed or an aggressive single-high Giants defense.
They simply can’t take that chance during the preseason. So considering just how handicapped the kid’s been during the preseason (and, of course, on Friday night), those final three-week numbers of 29-of-44 for 244 yards and two touchdowns to one meaningless pick on a fourth down come with solid appeal for such a youngster.
Though he did commit one dangerous over-the-middle throw in his own end against the Giants, Darnold’s risk-free brand of football feels incredible considering the hurdles faced up to this point in the summer.
Shaky pass rush or not, his quick-decision making and pocket presence lead to positive things. The Terrelle Pryor touchdown exemplifies this as Darnold made sure to put the ball ahead of the veteran wideout with plenty of time so he could make a play for the end zone.
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) August 25, 2018
The overall numbers, while average, can’t even begin to tell half the story. He’s compsure, professionalism and overall sense for the position grades out on a tremendous level.
Yes, fear should be felt if Darnold is named the starting quarterback for Week 1 against the Detroit Lions—especially if Beachum remains sidelined. Fear aside, naming Sam Darnold the starting quarterback is the correct move.
This is now his team. He gives the New York Jets the best chance to win.