At one point, Sam Darnold was considered a Trevor Lawrence level prospect.
He had just finished a strong freshman season as a redshirt at USC. At the 2017 NFL scouting combine, a year before Darnold could enter the draft, everyone praised him. Darnold had a turnover-filled second season and his stock dipped slightly, but he was still the New York Jets’ third pick in the draft. The Jets traded a lot to come up and get him.
So far this season, the Jets and Darnold are equally terrible. The Jets are 0-3 and Darnold is sinking fast. They will face the injury-riddled Denver Broncos 0-3 in Thursday Night Football, a game that can be streamed live on the Yahoo Sports app.
It is not an attractive game from a match point of view. But for the Jets, it will be another opportunity to watch Darnold and determine if he is recoverable.
Sam Darnold is off to a terrible start
Last Sunday, Darnold started the game against the Indianapolis Colts by throwing a six pick. Later in the game, he threw another one.
It’s hard to find a stat in which there is hope for Darnold. Darnold wasn’t great last season, yet he’s worse this year in completion percentage, yards per game, yards per attempt (per full yard, 6.9 to 5.9) , touchdown percentage, interception percentage and passer rating. He has three touchdowns and four interceptions, two of which were returned for scores.
Advanced stats aren’t nice either. Darnold’s Pro Football Focus rating ranks him 21st among 23 quarterbacks with at least 100 dropouts. He has the second-lowest average target depth in the NFL, which means he doesn’t push the ball down at all. In two of Football Outsiders’ key metrics, DYAR and DVOA, Darnold ranks 30th and 29th among 33 qualified quarterbacks.
By any measure, Darnold was one of the worst quarterbacks in football. That’s bad news in its critical third season.
Darnold didn’t get much help
Darnold has a reasonable apology. Top receivers Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder ran out of time. The same goes for running back Le’Veon Bell, who would also help. The Jets don’t have a great supporting cast, and the few talented players Darnold has to work with have been injured. Additionally, there are questions about coach Adam Gase and his ability to maximize the talent of his players, to say the least.
Darnold is still only 23 and has physical gifts. Maybe with better teammates and a better coach, he could still have a successful career. But the NFL is not patient. The Jets must make a decision on Darnold’s fifth-year option after this season, and every game will be crucial in determining what to do. Right now, there’s no good reason to exercise that fifth-year option, other than Darnold’s draft pedigree and the blind hope that he can grow as he gets older.
Thursday night will be another chance for Darnold to get on the right track and start changing the troubling trajectory he’s been on. Opposing quarterback Brett Rypien, the Broncos’ third starting quarterback this season. Rypien will make his first career start. He was undrafted a week ago to the Broncos practice squad and has nine career NFL passes. And the Jets can’t even be sure they have the best quarterback on the field Thursday night.
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