Sam Darnold has had an up-and-down first two seasons for the New York Jets. The former third overall pick has had his fair share of obstacles. He’s dealt with injuries, mono, criticism and ghosts (google it if you haven’t heard). However, through it all, he’s been working nonstop and continues to push towards being the best player he can be. But what exactly does he have to show and do during the upcoming season? The needs may seem obvious, but they are, in fact, needs.
This may seem like an obvious one here, but it’s an important one to pinpoint. He threw two fewer interceptions this past season compared to his rookie season. However, that number went from 15 to 13, and that’s still too many based on how much he played. Darnold played just 13 games for the Jets last season due to mono, and 13 interceptions in 13 games is not ideal. It wasn’t just interceptions, though, that plagued the Jets quarterback.
While he decreased his interceptions, he increased his amount of fumbles from 5 to 11. Sure, not all of those fumbles were lost, but either giving away the ball or giving the opponent the ability to have a takeaway 24 times is too many. Remember, all of these fumbles and interceptions happened throughout 13 games. So, those need to decrease substantially for the Jets to succeed.
Assuming that Darnold will dramatically decrease his turnovers is unrealistic, but he should be expected to a little. Even if he can get his interceptions down to 10 and his fumbles below 7, that would be a major improvement. If he can do both of those things this season, the Jets offense will be much more effective.
This is going to seem like another obvious one, and it is. Touchdowns win games and the Jets weren’t great at converting them last season. Darnold did increase his passing touchdowns from 17 to 19 and his rushing touchdowns from 1 to 2, but that’s still just 21 total scores. The 19 passing touchdowns ranked him number 24 in the league among quarterbacks. That tied him with Matthew Stafford, who played eight games.
Sure, Darnold isn’t the same gunslinger that Stafford is, but a franchise quarterback has to throw more touchdowns. If there is a full season, and Sam can get his passing touchdown number to around 25, that’s a big improvement.
Sam Darnold isn’t a guy that’s going to throw 30 touchdowns every season, and the Jets shouldn’t expect him to be. However, he needs to show that he can put the ball in the endzone more. If he doesn’t show that he can have around 25 passing touchdowns and a few rushing, it could end up being a disappointing season for him and the team.
Continue the upward trend of wins
Once again, a somewhat obvious one. Although, this isn’t one that Darnold should be stressing about the most. If he goes into each game thinking strictly about the win, it won’t happen. The first two points feed into wins, so those are the two he should focus on the most. However, let’s talk about the wins alone here.
As a rookie, Darnold had a record of 4-9 as the starting quarterback. Not very good overall. However, last season, he had a 7-6 record. That’s much better, especially for a season that was so unexpected for him because of the mono diagnosis. The three-game improvement was great to see and now, with a second year of familiarity with the new coaches, that number needs to improve yet again.
If he can stay healthy and on the field, the expectation should be that he can bring in no less than eight wins. Yes, it appears to be a tough schedule this season, but he’s an NFL player too. Every game is a tough game, and the schedule is no excuse. However, if Darnold and the Jets can go at least 8-8 this season, preferably 9-7, that would be another step in the right direction. He doesn’t necessarily need to bring the Jets to the playoffs, but they need to have a better record.
Sam Darnold has a lot to prove this season and there’s no reason to expect anything less than improvement. The hopeful franchise quarterback needs to stay on the field, reduce turnovers, increase touchdowns and, ultimately, win games. While these needs may be somewhat obvious, they are needs for this upcoming season nonetheless.