Sam Darnold showed a lot of promise last season. The quarterback the New York Jets took third overall last year had a ton of great moments. But he wasn’t always consistent, like most young quarterbacks, and he still has a ton of room to grow.
Darnold has been proclaimed as the savior of the Jets, but he isn’t there yet. To take the next step and become a true franchise quarterback, he still has a number of improvements to make.
Here are the three most important ones for the USC product.
3. Cut down the turnovers
Darnold needs to turn the ball over less. He threw the second most interceptions in the league last year, and finished only one behind Ben Roethlisberger for most. That was despite missing three games due to injury, and Darnold averaged over an interception per game.
His decision making melted down at various times, like in his four interception day against the Dolphins. His very first pass as a Jet was a pick-six. He followed up that pick-six with a great game, showing how great he can be if he can be less sloppy with the ball.
Darnold had turnover issues in college, and it was the one blemish on his USC resume. If he can reduce his interception rate just a little, he’ll be well on his way to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
2. Up his completion percentage
Darnold had a completion percentage of 57.7 percent last year, which ranked 31st out of 33 qualifiers. A completion rate below 60 percent is unacceptable, and even that is pushing it.
Ideally, Darnold will be able to get his number up into the mid-60’s next season. New coach Adam Gase’s system emphasizes short passes, so he should have some help there. Gase will help Darnold get the easy gimme completions he was missing last season, and boost his numbers.
Even quarterbacks like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning, and Mitchell Trubisky had completion percentages of above 65 percent, and there’s no reason Darnold shouldn’t hit it too.
3. Deal with pressure better
This is another area a lot of young quarterbacks struggle with. The Jets did a decent job of getting the ball out of Darnold’s hands quickly, but he really struggled when he did face pressure. He frequently backpedaled in the face of pressure, and didn’t step into his throws.
A lot of his interceptions were thrown while he was under duress, and could’ve easily been avoided. The offensive line will hopefully be a lot better next year, which will definitely help, but Darnold needs to get better at diagnosing blitzes pre-snap, and learning to anticipate pressure.