The New York Jets must do everything in their power to protect Sam Darnold to give him a chance at reaching his overall potential. Over two years in the NFL, Darnold has played in 26 games, completing 59.9% of his passes on average. He hasn’t reached 20 touchdown passes in a single year, capping out at 19. He has also thrown 28 overall interceptions, with 13 coming in 2019.
One statistic that is a bit troublesome as his sack totals. Last season he was taken down 33 times, attesting to his poor offensive line and why general manager Joe Douglas invested so much capital in the unit this off-season. He took to free agency to ensure that Darnold would have more time in the pocket, signing guard Greg Van Roten, tackle George Fant, and center Connor McGovern. Douglas didn’t stop there, though, as he drafted Mekhi Becton to fill the left tackle decision with the 11th overall pick in the draft.
The New York Jets had an O-line mission:
In one off-season, Douglas essentially turned over the entire line, leaving just Brian Winters to fend at guard. This was an absolute necessity given the struggles Darnold saw in the pocket and being forced to move around the field to find open receivers. However, he also gained a pass catcher in Denzel Mims out of Baylor. After losing Robby Anderson in free agency, Mims will replace the speedy pass catcher and hopefully develop into Darnold’s number one target.
Ultimately, the success of the offense boils down to their protection scheme, and that goes for any team. A strong offensive line gives Darnold more time in the pocket and Le’Veon Bell more running lanes to burst through. This leads to more separation for wide receivers with defense’s playing closer to the line of scrimmage if the running game is playing well. Everything leads back to the trenches on offense and defense, which attest to its importance and why Douglas finally absolved the issues remaining.
With that being said, I don’t believe the rebuild of the line is fully complete. If some of these players don’t play to expectations, Darnold will once again be under pressure and fail to have a successful season. That breeds much more than just a degradation for Sam, but it also hurts Le’Veon Bell and the wide receivers, ultimately keeping the defense on the field longer and increasing the probability of fatigue and injuries.