Returning from Miami, Sam Darnold accepted the blame for the New York Jets’ offensive no-show in an ugly 13-6 loss to the Dolphins.
The rookie quarterback defended his unit during a Monday afternoon conference call, less than 24 hours after they put up only 275 yards and no touchdowns against a Miami Dolphins defense ranked 27th in the league. Darnold asked that any blaming fingers point at him, as he believed his Miami mistakes cost the Jets the game.
“I’m just not playing to the best of my ability,” Darnold said. “I thought I played stupid football yesterday. I just have to be better. I know that, the coaches know that, everybody knows that.”
Darnold’s four interceptions added to his league-high tally, which now stands at 14. One of the turnovers was taken to the end zone by linebacker Jerome Baker, the 25-yard return serving as the only touchdown in the 13-6 Miami victory.
Despite the loss and apparent offensive no-show, Darnold tried to glean positives from the brutal defeat. He praised the offensive line for their Sunday performance, mentioning that they “blocked their (butts) off”, despite allowing four sacks.
“Personally, I thought I played bad,” he reiterated. “To put it into simple terms, I just didn’t play my best football. I thought as an offense we played really well.”
With the scoreboard’s final position leaving the Jets on the wrong end, Darnold knows whatever positives the Jets develop will be lost in the standings.
“If I don’t turn the ball over, I feel we have a great chance to win that ballgame,” Darnold admitted. He later added “I definitely feel like I forced some things. But at the same time, I feel like there were some throws where I was second-guessing myself and I could’ve pulled the trigger.”
Darnold’s teammates were likewise willing to share in the blame. Receiver Quincy Enunwa explained how the unit can make Darnold more comfortable in a tenuous situation.
“There are things we can do better on our end,” Enunwa said. “We have to do our job of being in the right spot, blocking for him, doing whatever we need to do to make sure the job’s easy for him.”
If anyone knows the trials and tribulations of being a touted first-round pick, it’s defensive end, Leonard Williams.
Like Darnold, Williams was a touted prospect out of the University of Southern California, chosen with the sixth pick overall in 2015’s draft. Williams’ first NFL campaign went smoothly, earning 63 tackles and three sacks. The Pro Football Writers’ Association would name him to their All-Rookie team at the end of the year.
Playing quarterback in New York, arguably one of the toughest jobs in all sports, Darnold’s situation obviously faces multiplied pressure and scrutiny. But his fellow first-rounder and Trojan alum is doing his best to help him adjust to the world of professional football.
“I would say to just be patient with himself,” Williams said. “I would tell him to be patient, not to listen to what the media or the fans are saying. This is his first year. Obviously, he’s seen a lot of new defenses, a lot of new schemes, something he’s not used to … It’s something you’re going to have to face as a rookie, something you’re going to have to overcome.”
According to head coach Todd Bowles, this is Darnold’s 3-6 ship to correct. Asked if anything could cause his benching, Bowles said, “Not at this time.”
The fourth-year head coach also stressed that the Jets’ problems don’t all amount to Darnold’s struggles, insisting that improvement is needed from the team as a whole.
“It’s not just Sam, it’s the team period,” Bowles said. “Yesterday it was mainly the offense. Tweaks here and there, but we just have to play better and execute as a whole. It’s not just based upon Sam, it’s based upon the whole team.”
The Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon, taking on the Buffalo Bills (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS).