Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The proper NFL development of young New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is now fully evident at this stage of the game.

When an NFL team drafts a talented young quarterback, every aspect of the professional game must be considered. Some of that development happens quickly while some of it takes some time to evolve.

I have watched New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold closely from day No. 1 this season and he has taken giant steps in the past few months, which are obvious to my eyes. A game-winning drive against Miami isn’t the sole reason for such a statement. I have seen the development each and every week this season—even in losses.

First of all, his progression from options one and two has sped up dramatically, and when he faces a Cover 2, he is ready to find the creases in that zone with precise accurate throws. In addition, he has developed a touch on the ball that I did not see last year. It allows him to throw it over the pass-covering linebackers and in front of the defensive backs, which creates great third-down options.

His mobility has also improved, as he never puts his head down while scrambling, which allows him to spot receivers on the run. His long ball has become more accurate and he also gets so many receivers involved in the offense early enough in the game so opposing defenses do not begin to make adjustments until much later in the game.

There are so many little things a quarterback has to master in this league and Darnold works so hard on each of those concepts. One example surfaces when Adam Gase dials up a play-action. He has confused linebackers into jumping into the box to tackle a runner that never has the ball.

But the really impressive thing about Darnold is the mental side of the game, which is so important for every team leader. He has made huge strides in that department. Several players have mentioned to me how calm and focused he is in the huddle and it shows when playing in the two-minute drill.

Leadership is a hard concept to define in football with words, but in my experience, it’s either readily apparent or not. And I not only see it in Sam Darnold, I’ve seen it grow in leaps and bounds over the course of the 2019 season. It’s attributed to an approach to his craft coupled with a coaching staff that plays to his strengths.

A 5-8 record is not where Jet fans want to be, and believe me, Sam Darnold is well aware of that. But he is determined to develop every part of his game so that his team will be in that playoff hunt in the very near future. His determination reminds me so much of Chad Pennington, who had the mind of a computer to match the heart of a lion.

Darnold brings that to the field as well. The kid has come off as advertised and possesses a world of talent. But much more than that, he cares about his teammates and has shown it every waking moment this season.

The Jets have waited a long time for a quarterback like Sam Darnold and his development will continue to speak volumes about the future of this team, which is very bright with him at the controls.