New York Jets
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New York Jets young quarterback Sam Darnold continued his awe-inspiring progress when he took on the Green Bay Packers in Week 16.

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The New York Jets 2018 football team lost its final home game of the season last Sunday. The New York Jets organization won in a very big way.

What Sam Darnold did against the Green Bay Packers showcased awe-inspiring stuff.

With the help of Jeremy Bates’s newfound implementation of certain jet-sweep principles to go along with fresh playcalling during early downs, Darnold was nothing short of spectacular. His final line of 24-for-35 for 341 yards and three scores only reveals a partial story. The veteran savviness displayed on nearly every down now suddenly has the NFL world buzzing.

It all began on the very first offensive play from scrimmage.

Pocket Presence Slide Leading To Anderson Comeback

Due to the Packers usual propensity to blitz early in the game, especially on the first play of the game—via former Rex Ryan disciple, Jets defensive coordinator, and current Green Bay DC, Mike Pettine—Bates cooked up a max protect, two-man route.

The impressive attribute here is Darnold’s in-pocket awareness. He slides left comfortably while finding Robby Anderson on the deep comeback.

The Jets offensive line should be ashamed of itself. Allowing an interior rusher to get to Darnold when three tight ends remain in as blockers is a shameful football sin.

Nonetheless, Darnold senses it and follows out the play.

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Back-Shoulder Throw To Herndon On The Seam

This is something new. Witnessing young Sam Darnold confidently deliver a back-shoulder throw in the face of man-to-man coverage is a veteran quarterback skill set.

Recognizing man across the board with one-deep and a five-man rush, Sam knows he has very little time due to the five-man route. Picking the right target with the defender’s back to the ball, Darnold’s placement here is picture perfect:

If this back-shoulder comfortability grows, watch out.

Finding The Soft Spot In The Cover 3

Sam Darnold’s single-best skill remains his uncanny throw-on-the-run ability. For the majority of the season, he’s proven more comfortable while on the run than actually inside of the pocket.

This notion is changing before our very eyes.

On this example, Darnold picks apart the Pack’s Cover 3 by finding the soft spot over the flat and beneath the deep-third:

Robby Anderson finished the game with 140 yards and a touchdown on nine grabs. He is, without a doubt, the kid QB’s top target and the one who’s developed the greatest chemistry with.

Darnold's 3 TDs Against Terrible Packers Defense

It’d be wrong to not point out just how horrid Green Bay’s defense played in this one. They were downright awful.

All three scores were a product of terrible defense:

Don’t let it take away from Darnold’s stellar performance. The kid’s most impressive play came while driving the field.

The 2 Sam Darnold Read-Progression Misses

Of course, Sam Darnold wasn’t perfect. But he came pretty damn close. The only two blatant misses came on back-to-back plays just before the half ended.

On similar play designs—the corner mixed in with a flat—Darnold failed to progress to the second read:

It’s a nitpick, but it’s also the same stuff the kid is looking at himself. The area he can improve on most this season is unlocking his first read and moving on when necessary. At times, he’ll remain stubborn to the primary read.

Scanning The Field To Look Off The Safety Like A Pro

Darnold finds Anderson on the comeback to pick up a critical 3rd-and-7. At first glance, it doesn’t look all that extraordinary.

Look closer.

The end-zone view tells a story of a seasoned pro:

Darnold scans the entire field prior to looking Anderson’s way. This keeps the two-deep safeties confused and unable to hit an interception home run.

Yet again, it’s an example of terrific development at the 12-game mark.

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Throw-On-The Run Ability

As previously mentioned, Darnold’s greatest strength lies when combining his arm and legs at once. The accuracy he displays while throwing-on-the-run has actually surpassed that of his pocket placement.

He finds Anderson on the deep comeback after rolling out naked off the play-action outside zone (stretch):

He could have easily taken the underneath routes starting directly into his eyes. Due to the fact it was 1st-and-25, the kid appropriately finds his go-to guy, setting up a 2nd-and-short.

Perfect Ball Placement

On the last play of the game, Darnold finds Herndon on an intermediate hook among the underneath zone defenders.

What’s important here is not that he found Herndon, but just how perfect his ball placement was:

Knowing the defender was lurking on the left, Darnold put the ball in the only spot it needed to be: on the right. The ball couldn’t have been handed off any more perfectly.

Pocket Presence Slide Leading To Anderson Comeback

It’s a shame the season ends this weekend. With Jeremy Bates finally figuring certain modern principles out and Todd Bowles not force-feeding the run, the young quarterback would progress immensely if several more games remained.

But alas, that’s not the case.

Instead, young Darnold will head to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to finish out his rookie season in Week 17. Sure, look for even more awe-inspiring stuff from the kid. And do it not just to well-wish, but to actually expect this development to continue.

Whatever happens, however, understand this one thing: Sam Darnold is for real. He’s a true franchise quarterback ready to blossom. It’s now up to the New York Jets to ensure they insert the correct offensive football mind into the equation to mature this natural development.

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