There’s no question the New York Jets are fully invested in quarterback Sam Darnold, and GM Joe Douglas backed that sentiment up with a free-agency and draft period tailored around protecting him.
However, Darnold has been shaky over this first two seasons in the NFL, seeing only minimal improvements in 2019. His numbers don’t scream franchise-caliber, but a lot of his deficiencies can be attributed to poor offensive line play and a lack of weapons. The Jets took those two excuses away, signing guard Greg Van Roten, tackle George Fant, and center Connor McGovern. They also draft Louisville behemoth tackle, Mekhi Becton.
Ultimately, Darnold ‘should’ see his best season in 2020, given all of the improvement made to the roster. But the coaching staff must look to maximize his talents, and one factor of his game was remarkably bad last season.
According to QB Data Mine, the third-year passer was the worst play-action quarterback in the game, completing under 44 percent of passes from this set. Shying away from this weakness might be a good idea for head coach Adam Gase and the offensive staff, but then again, you could make the argument he should be utilizing it more frequently to help his development.
Sam Darnold was 43.8% accurate on play action passes last season. He was the worst play action passer in the league by a distance. pic.twitter.com/BWtb2XUsJK
— QB Data Mine (@QBDataMine) May 2, 2020
I believe testing Darnold and mixing play-action into an offensive scheme is necessary and essential for the success of any given unit. Testing opposing defenses and keeping them on their toes is part of driving the football down the field and into the endzone.
Having a running back like LeVeon Bell should also help in Darnold’s efficiency, as his ability to attack the flat and act as a pass-catcher is how he made a name for himself in Pittsburgh. Bell had his lowest receiving totals in 2019 over his last three seasons played, indicating that the New York Jets might not have utilized him well. A 33% decrease in receiving yards is ludicrous for a player of his caliber, but the Jets made sure to bolster the offensive line and add two new pass catchers to the unit, keeping opposing defenses from doubling Bell and stacking the box.
Helping Bell is directly connected to Darnold’s success, and the play-action should undoubtedly be a significant part of the Jet’s offense next season.