As a third overall pick coming into New York City’s spotlight, there was more than enough pressure on Sam Darnold to perform at a high level.
New York Jets fans were hoping for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, but two years into Darnold’s tenure and the Jets are no closer to competing. However, that cannot be completely attributed to Darnold’s underwhelming play.
Darnold came into a sticky management situation coupled with very poor coaching and a lack of tools on the roster. The offensive line was one of the worst in football, as was the running back unit and the wide receiver corps. New York finished 4-12 in 2018 and head coach Todd Bowles was fired and replaced by Adam Gase. However, despite Gase’s new leadership and the additions of Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley last offseason, the Jets continued to struggle, showing just marginal improvement.
With that said, don’t let the Jets’ 7-9 record distract from the fact that Darnold actually went 7-6 when he played, while the team was 0-3 while Darnold was sidelined with mononucleosis.
With the 2020 schedule released, Darnold will have a heavy task at hand in 2020. The Jets have done many things for their young quarterback this offseason to put him in the best position to succeed. Although they lost No. 1 wide receiver Robby Anderson to Carolina, they revamped the offensive unit by bolstering the line with first-round pick Mekhi Becton in addition to signing Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant. They also added wideouts Denzel Mins and Breshad Perriman via the draft and free agency, respectively. Finally, they added Frank Gore and rookie La’Mical Pernie to a newly-solidified backfield.
With these new weapons, what Sam Darnold showed through last season can turn into big plays and even extra wins in the near future. The USC product should now be better protected in the pocket and have better pass-catchers at his disposal.
Darnold is just about to turn 23. He entered the league younger than most of his contemporaries, and there have been some definite growing pains. But it takes time for quarterbacks to develop, and in the media capital of the world, New York fans expect results.
Often, a quarterback’s third season is when he makes a marked jump. With the pieces in place, it’s time to see if the Jets will get some return on the investment of their No. 3 overall pick.