Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Jets youngster Sam Darnold showcased eye-popping franchise-quarterback skills against the Dallas Cowboys.

Robby Sabo

FLORHAM PARK, NJ—The offense played better. The defense looked faster. The coaching felt sharper. Even the water boy’s sideline skills turned hall of fame-worthy.

When one man changes everything about an organization, from the play on the field to the receptionists in the building, something special is at hand.

What Sam Darnold means to the New York Jets is, quite literally … everything.

The perceived laughingstock of the NFL (save for two franchises named the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins) stunned the NFL world with its 24-22 victory over the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday. The contest serves as this season’s shining example proving one man’s value in the league this season.


More importantly, those 60 minutes showcased exactly what No. 14 possesses: franchise-quarterback talent.

First and foremost, credit Adam Gase. His initial gameplan attacked a vanilla Cowboys Cover 3 defense and allowed his young quarterback to attack downfield.

Ball Placement

On the very first play of the day, a dig to Demaryius Thomas highlighted Gase’s aggressive nature and Darnold’s accuracy.

The only reason the cornerback was close to Thomas dealt with his second read. No second or third read ever threatened his deep-third, meaning he could follow DT across the field.

Notice Darnold’s accuracy. He hit his wideout in stride with perfect placement.

Perhaps the greatest example of ball placement occurred at the end of the first half. While the perfectionist wants a low-and-inside throw here, Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith prevents it.

Darnold’s ball to tight end Ryan Griffin couldn’t have been handed off any better.

Scanning the Field

Anybody who believes Darnold isn’t winning when rolling through his progressions is simply lost. Sure, most of his damage comes on the three-step drop. But guess what? The NFL in 2019 is a pres-snap league. It isn’t just Gase. Go put on a Tom Brady film.

Darnold hits Thomas again over the middle in the second quarter. Again, the ball placement is filthy.

A common theme in the win was hitting the soft spot in the zone, over the second level and in front of the deep-third (single-high safety).

The most important takeaway is No. 14’s mind. He looks right for Robby Anderson and then goes left for Griffin on the vertical only to find Thomas on his third read for the big chunk.

Quick Release

One of the few knocks on Darnold coming out of USC (other than ball security) was his throwing motion. Many talent evaluators questioned whether or not his release was quick enough.

Did you fully appreciate that play? His release is as quick as ever and oftentimes makes up for a lack of talent in front of him.

Accuracy While Moving

Think Patrick Mahomes. Think Aaron Rodgers. An NFL franchise quarterback must remain accurate while throwing from uncomfortable positions.

We already know Darnold can throw-on-the-run like a bad man. On this completion, he does it while sidestepping the edge rush.

That’s an incredible example of dodging and throwing all in one motion, while delivering it perfectly.

Crunch Time

Finally, what a franchise arm needs to do most in this league is deliver when the game is on the line. Darnold’s head coach allowed him to throw the ball late, up five.

The kid passed the test with flying colors.

The first play showcases Darnold stepping up in the pocket and hitting the soft spot in the zone for a big gain with his slot weapon.

To put his team in field-goal range, the kid threw a beauty via pure confidence.

Hitting Anderson on the back-shoulder wheel from the slot is a throw that’s literally impossible to cover if defended perfectly. This is the zone fans will witness top quarterbacks finding themselves in once feeling it completely.

On Sunday, the Jets young signal-caller was feeling it.

Don’t crown the kid yet. In this social media world that creates superstars overnight, it’s a silly thing to crown an athlete before it’s time.

Just understand the actual talent that’s at play here. New York Jets youngster Sam Darnold possesses legitimate NFL franchise-quarterback skills. It’s up to Adam Gase and the organization to fully develop the California kid.



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