New York Jets: Sam Darnold Could Be a Two-Sport Star

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Beginning over the next few weeks I took a deep dive into the 53 man roster in order to identify a few guys who could make a transition to another sport. Not because it’s realistic, but because fun hypothetical scenarios can make the carry over to football a lot easier.

Sam Darnold: Basketball

Every diehard Jets fan has seen the video of Sam draining threes in California last offseason. His basketball career goes way beyond the smooth as butter jump shot. Growing up Darnold said he dreamt of playing basketball. Darnold’s dreams of basketball were directly tied to the late Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Darnold dreamt of repping the purple and gold long before the green and white.

The dreams were close to becoming a reality. Although Darnold was a stud on the gridiron, he also lit it up on the court. Looking back at his stats from San Clemente high school, they’re actually very impressive. Darnold played 49 games with 13.7 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per games, 2.6 assists per game and a 41% FG percentage. Darnold was a sharpshooter used all over by coach Marc Popovich for the Tritons. Darnold displayed leadership on the Tritons in route to a league MVP award in his Sophomore year of High School.

So where would Darnold have gone. Although he had dreams of being the next J.J. Reddick, Darnold chose the right sport. In high school, Darnold was a good enough basketball player to have likely played college basketball, but his highlights and his skill set likely wouldn’t have translated to much more success than that. His athleticism and build is much better suited for hurling the pig skin. Although Darnold may wonder what could have been, I’d say he’d have to be pretty damn happy to be a franchise QB for an NFL team as any consolation. 

Would a shortened preseason hurt the New York Jets?

Shortening the NFL preseason has been discussed, even before COVID-19, but an exhibition quartet might help the 2020 New York Jets.

As COVID-19 stubbornly refuses to depart, professional American sports are attempting to inch their way back in. The powers that be at Major League Baseball finally agreed to a 60-game season that might never happen, while the NBA, NHL, WNBA, and MLS are all set to attempt “bubble” settings to either resume to start their respective 2020 campaigns. NASCAR and the PGA Tour, among others, have been able to operate in reduced settings, if only for their natural ability to adhere to social distancing.

Then there’s the National Football League.

The NFL has acknowledged the ongoing health crisis, though one look at their calendar hints that they’re at least trying to operate with some sort of semblance of business as usual. Minicamp proceedings have been shut down, but the annual draft lived on in virtual settings and players have met on their own to work out. Quarterback Sam Darnold is among them, having joined rival quarterbacks in California and his New York Jets offensive teammates in Florida as the league’s constituents bide their time before team facilities can officially open for gridiron business.

Reality perhaps finally hit the NFL on Thursday morning. The league announced that August’s annual Pro Football Football Hall of Fame Game would not be played, canceling the season’s first unofficial game. Accompanying induction ceremonies have been postponed to 2021.

While some see the game’s cancellation as merely a precaution, ensuring that the game’s combatants from Dallas and Pittsburgh wouldn’t have to report to training camp any earlier than they had to. But other observers see it as the first football domino to fall to the hand of COVID-19, with the preseason schedule seen as next in line.

Even in the best of times, the NFL preseason is often seen as athletic drivel, a mere excuse for the league’s 32 teams to charge full ticket, parking, and concession prices for what basically amounts to future practice squad/XFL participants going at it. While it does serve a purpose…allowing new teammates to develop chemistry, help new coaches create a rhythm…trimming the current standard quartet has been discussed for several years. COVID-19 could finally make that a perhaps overdue reality, finishing what the 2018-19 Los Angeles Rams started. Back then, L.A. boss Sean McVay sat his starters for the summer before embarking on a run to the Super Bowl.

But would such a long-overdue idea come back to haunt the New York Jets?

The preseason was made for teams like the 2020 Jets. To put the New York turnover into perspective, the only listed receiver leftover from a roster as recent as 2018 (Darnold’s rookie season) is Quincy Enunwa…and he’ll more likely than not never play another down in a Jets uniform. If Brian Winters leaves before Week 1, then Darnold’s offensive line will have (rightfully so) completely turned over by the time his third year begins.

New York is in a spot where they have a quarterback on their roster that they envision to be their starter in 3-5 years. It sounds like a basic requirement of NFL membership, but that just goes to show how traumatic the last decade was for the Jets. As another famous young New Yorker once learned, however, with great power comes great responsibility. Work must be done to develop some chemistry within the group, and the preseason offers four consequence-free opportunities to do that against another NFL opponent.

Offensive chemistry isn’t the only area that could’ve used a tune-up quartet. Starters and depth options alike can use some work on defense, especially with a plethora of new talent auditioning on one-year deals. If Jamal Adams is gone, that could eliminate rep opportunities for, say, Ashtyn Davis. Those returning from injury, like linebacker C.J. Mosley would lose an opportunity to get back into the swing of things. Even on special teams, that Jets have competitions that need solving, particularly in discovering who their primary returner will be and who will win the Sam Ficken/Brett Maher boot battle.

Even in “normal” times, Jets head coach Adam Gase was against the idea of slicing the summer slate.

“I like the fact that it gives a chance to evaluate,” Gase remarked last summer, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “That fourth preseason game, all those guys that get to play, we get value out of that. We’re not trying to see if we can shorten the game up. We’ll probably try to throw it like 60 times.”

True to Gase’s word, the Jets indeed aired out in their yearly preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. Darnold didn’t play, but Trevor Siemian, Luke Falk, and Davis Webb united for 46 throws in a 6-0 win. One year prior, in Gase’s final Miami adventure, Brock Osweiler and current Jets backup candidate David Fales threw 45 in the preseason closer in Atlanta.

Gase even outlined why a McVay-like approach to the preseason wouldn’t work in East Rutherford.

“Last year, I remember having a conversation with [McVay] about his starters not playing and they had an older team,” Gase remarked in Mehta’s report. “They had a lot of guys that had played a lot of football. That’s kind of how they went about it. We have a young team and this is our first year in the program, so we need to play a little bit.”

There are obviously merits to chopping down on the preseason slate, especially in a year where factors beyond football are making their prescience felt. An endless list of costly preseason injuries (Michael Vick in 2003, Osi Umenyiora in 2008, just to name two) is just yet another reason to move from the concept. The NFL themselves would probably love to see a preseason reduction if only because it be a solid stepping stone toward their long-sought-after goal of a regular-season beyond 16 games.

The time will come when the Jets are ready to outgrow the preseason, when they’re comfortable enough with themselves that they don’t have to rely on meaningless summer action to feel hopeful. But they’re not at that point yet, and those opportunities and chances to experiment and develop could be disappearing at the worst possible time, even if their absence comes for the most understandable reasons.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

One New York Jets Receiver Enters A Make Or Break Season

New York Jets, Robby Anderson, Sam Darnold

The New York Jets lost Robby Anderson this past offseason. The loss was one that set the Jets back at wide receiver. Anderson was the go-to target for Sam Darnold. He was a deep threat who could stretch the field and add another layer to the Jets passing game. The Jets return Jamison Crowder, a safety net for Darnold and a dynamic slot piece. They also added a presumed steal in rookie Denzel Mims. Mims brings a big red zone presence with his size and catch radius. Although he brings speed, he will be trusted to grow with Darnold and be groomed into a do it all number one receiver. The Jet receiver trusted to bring the deep threat presence and fill the void of Robby Anderson is Breshard Perriman.

Perriman Needs A Big Year

When Perriman signed with the New York Jets, just hours after Anderson inked a deal to defect to Carolina, I broke the news here at ESM. I touched on his inconsistencies in his past, but one thing I harped on was his recent successes. In 3 years, Perriman had 55 receptions for 916 yards and 5 TDs. Last season, he had 36 receptions for 645 yards and 6 TDs. In the final quarter of the season, Perriman didn’t have a game with less than 70 yards. Perriman was on fire and flashed the potential that got him picked by the Ravens with the 26th pick in the 2015 draft. Perriman parlayed those flashes into a 1 year deal with Gang Green. The Jets will give him the opportunity to start and earn meaningful reps. If Perriman can put up solid numbers, he could revitalize his career.

Perriman fits into the model Douglas is trying to build “prove it deals”. Perriman must put up a quality season in order to become a true fixture in this league. With all the speed in the world, if Perriman can continue to develop his route tree this offseason, similarly to what Anderson did last season. At 26, the best could be ahead for the Breshard Perriman.

New York Jets: Joe Flacco is ready to take on a support role with Sam Darnold

New York Jets, Joe Flacco

The signing of Joe Flacco by the New York Jets was a fantastic move to back up Sam Darnold in his development. Darnold has yet to play a full 16 games over his first two seasons in the NFL, missing three games in 2019 due to mono. Having a capable backup as essential, as we have seen in recent years with Nick Foles winning a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles and even how integral Josh McCown was in Darnold’s progression.

However, Flacco is keen on playing in the NFL for many more years, but coming off a severe neck injury is problematic. The Jets can ease him into their offense and utilize him to supplement any injuries throughout the 2020 campaign. Flacco isn’t just trying to play, though, he is also on board with helping the Jets’ young franchise quarterback develop further and cement himself on the team. Darnold has yet to show his elite side on a consistent level, failing to throw more than 19 touchdowns over the last two years.

“I want to, first and foremost, help the team in any way possible, but also be a guy that Sam can lean on and can learn from,” Flacco said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I would say those are the two most important things: to help out the guys on the team and to help out Sam to do all he can.”

Helping Darnold will be Flacco’s primary task with the New York Jets, and that will give him the time to recover properly from his injury and return to football shape. He is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and an MVP, attesting to his quality and what he brings to the table. This could also indicate the Jets are confident they can win now, and having a capable backup would be essential in a potential playoff situation (given an injury).

“[I] took a while to really think about what I wanted to do,” he said. “My mind was just all over the place even a couple of months into the offseason. I was kind of going crazy about the whole thing.”

“For me personally, I want to play football,” Flacco said. “I’ve had some things happen and got injured and had to have surgery. I’ve got to find my way back into the league. I want to play for years to come. I think these guys have given me a great opportunity and hope I can make the most of whatever my situation and whatever my role ends up being.”

General manager Joe Douglas did a phenomenal job bringing in an experienced quarterback like Flacco to help the offense. While he might not be throwing a football in a live game anytime soon, his experience is essential and will give them the confidence to move forward knowing they have quality depth of the quarterback position.

New York Jets are setting up Sam Darnold for success with recent signings

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold has had a tumultuous start to his career with the New York Jets, and 2019 was no different when he contracted mono and missed a chunk of the regular season. Despite missing three games last year, he still tallied 3024 yards, 19 touchdowns, and threw 13 interceptions.

He played only 30 snaps more in 2018, and while his numbers don’t reflect a significant improvement, he did see his completion percentage increase from 57.7 to 61.9%. He threw two more touchdowns and two fewer interceptions in year two in the NFL, indicating a minuscule improvement across-the-board. However, going into year three, Darnold needs to take a significant leap forward to prove that he can be Jets’ franchise quarterback.

The New York Jets took big steps forward this offseason:

General manager Joe Douglas made it a priority to bolster the offensive line and contribute veteran signings to help Darnold in his quest. He turned over their entire protection scheme, signing tackle George Fant, guard Greg Van Roten, and center Conner McGovern. He also drafted Mekhi Becton out of Louisville with the 11th overall pick. The only player that will remain the same on the line is Brian Winters at right guard. That is a substantial positive for Darnold, considering he was sacked 33 times last season in 13 games.

In addition to this retooling, Douglas also signed veteran running back Frank Gore and former Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco. Both players have the experience and knowledge to help Darnold progress as an NFL player. It is also a good contingency plan considering he has missed three games in his first two seasons in the NFL.

Ultimately, the Jets have done a lot to help Darnold to see it moving forward. The drafting of Denzel Mims out of Baylor and the return of tight and Chris Herndon should be significant in his development. With the defense returning to full health and the offense gaining multiple new starters, the Jets should be confident in their quarterback.

New York Jets: Chris Herndon preparing to finally break out in 2020?

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

The New York Jets have one playmaker ready to make a comeback:

During his rookie season 2018, New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon was one of the most polarizing players at the position. As a fourth-round pick, he earned 39 receptions with four touchdowns. He tallied 502 receiving yards, trailing behind only Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens, who was having a career season. Herndon has the pass-catching potential to be an elite option of the NFL level, but injuries and suspensions have hurt his young career.

In 2019, he played in just one game, logging one reception for 7 yards. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Jets have high expectations for the 24-year-old tight end. They also have Ryan Griffin, who excelled at the position in his absence. Griffin posted 320 yards and five touchdowns, compiling an 82.9% catch rate, which is unbelievably high for any position player.

Playing a lot of 12 personnel could be in the future for the Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who will now have two more than capable tight ends.

Conor Hughes of The Athletic stated that the Jets can’t wait to unleash Herndon in 2020.

“The team had sky-high expectations for their tight end entering last season, but a league-imposed suspension and injuries limited him to just one healthy quarter.”

Ultimately, he can feature as one of their primary playmakers from a blocking standpoint in the run game to receiving option in the passing game. His versatility makes him extremely exceptional in all facets, but remaining healthy has been a challenge for him up to this point. He finished 2019 on injured reserve with a rib injury.

Nonetheless, the Jets should have a rebuilt offense with a brand new offensive line and protection scheme. The hope is that the line can hold up in pass protection, giving Herndon and Griffen the freedom to run routes frequently and not block to compensate for weak tackle-play. Drafting Mekhi Becton should help Darnold’s blind-side significantly.

Report: New York Jets to face off against Buffalo Bills in week 1

New York Jets, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

As the NFL prepares to release the official schedule this evening, Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News has now leaked the New York Jets‘ first opponents. The betting favorites to win the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills will be hosting the Green & White in week 1.

The Jets will visit Orchard Park after facing the Bills in Week 1 & 17 of last season. They’re reportedly slated to play at 1 PM to kick off the season. Although there were initial reports that the NFL would structure the season with AFC vs NFC games for the first four weeks to kick off the season, they’ve now shown that’s not the case, at least for two AFC East teams.

Breaking Down The Matchup

A brief look at the Bills roster shows you how talented they are. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have built an excellent squad of high character guys in Buffalo. They’ve used lots of resources to build through the trenches, just like Joe Douglas has done for the Jets. The difference between the teams to me is in the coaching staff(s). The Jets are still looking to build an identity under second-year coach Adam Gase. The Bills have constructed that identity under McDermott and now been to the playoffs twice under his guidance. As Josh Allen continues to develop and the team added pieces like Stefon Diggs, Josh Norman, and AJ Epenesa to an already talented team, they look primed to contend for the AFC East title.

As for the Jets, although they’ve had a great offseason, the team has one of the hardest schedules in football and is facing a lot of pressure. There’s real skepticism about Adam Gase, and if he’s the right guy to lead this team, if he wins this year and shows he can win with this team, he’ll keep his job, but if he does not prove that he can lead this team to wins, the Jets will be looking for another coach. The Jets QB 1 also faces pressure. As his third year approaches, Darnold has shown flashes of brilliance. When he’s not hurt, the Jets have also been a productive offensive team. If he can stay healthy and produce, he will prove he’s the true franchise QB, but another average or slightly above average season could lead fans to question his ability to lead this team.

Both teams are young with loads of potential, and with pressure to win on both sides of the ball, week 1 can’t get here soon enough.

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was awful in one category in 2019

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

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.

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.

Should the New York Jets be worried about Sam Darnold’s progression?

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Taking a look at Sam Darnold and if the New York Jets should be worried about his development:

Sam Darnold is going into his third season in the NFL, and lofty goals have undoubtedly affected his performance thus far. Playing in New York is no easy feat, and the media coverage and expectation that come with it can oftentimes be grueling for players. When it comes to franchise quarterbacks, those expectations can be overwhelming.

For Darnold, he has plenty of time left to develop and reach his potential. At just 22 years old, the former USC quarterback has two years of NFL experience under his belt and 26 total games. His completion percentage in year three increased by about 4%, a significant jump from his rookie season.

He posted a 7–6 record in 2019, tossing 19 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and fumbling the ball 11 times. Overall, he did see improvement across the board, Which is exactly what the Jets needed to visualize from their franchise quarterback.

However, while his improvement was noticeable, his numbers are still a bit shaky and inconsistent. Having never thrown more than 19 touchdowns in a given season, and fumbling the ball a bit too much, the Jets should be a little worried about his progression. A lot of his hiccups can be attributed to a poor offensive line, allowing him to be sacked 63 times in his career. The Jets started over ten different linemen in 2019 but allocated plenty of draft capital in free agency money toward bolstering the unit. Hopefully, they will be stronger next season and allow Darnold to play at an elevated level.

In addition, general manager Joe Douglas drafted Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims to act as one of his top pass catchers. They also signed Breshad Perriman, who was a former first-round pick and can act as Darnold’s number two receiver.

A trio of wideouts, including Mims, Perriman, and Jamison Crowder, should be enough to blanket Darnold’s weaknesses. Factor in tight ends Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin, and there should be no problem in the receiving game. Le’Veon Bell is also a significant factor on offense, and we should expect to see Darnold utilize him frequently in the screen game.

Overall, you can justify a bit of worry regarding Darnold’s development, but his third season in the NFL should prove whether or not he can reach a higher level. With an improved offensive line and weapons across the board, Douglas has given the young passer everything he needs to succeed.

Did the New York Jets get a steal in Baylor wideout Denzel Mims?

New York Jets, Denzel Mims

Taking a look at New York Jets WR Denzel Mims who was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft:

The Jets made the right decision in selecting Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Gang Green immediately found themselves a starting left tackle for Sam Darnold, who has been sacked over 60 times the past two seasons in just 26 games.

However, the third-year passer lost receiver Robby Anderson in free agency to the Seattle Seahawks, leaving a void on offense. While general manager Joe Douglas did allocate some cap space toward the wide receiver position in Breshad Perriman, he did not hesitate to take another receiver in the NFL draft. He selected Denzel Mims out of Baylor with their second-round pick.

Mims is a quality pass catcher who has the potential to develop very quickly and become a top target for Darnold in 2020. His size/speed pairing makes him one of the best receivers in the draft class, and he stood out during the Senior Bowl. Falling to the bottom of the second round allowed the Jets to snag him — he was the 13th receiver to come off the board, but the 48th pick was the lowest he would fall.

At 6-foot-3, Mims has solid height, making him an excellent red-zone target, and is blazing fast with a 4.38 40-yard dash. His 6.66 second three-cone time was the best in the wide receiver class, but drops have been a significant concern for the Baylor product in the past. However, the hope is that Darnold will receive a true ace at the wideout position.

Should we be concerned about his dropped passes?

Recording an 11.4% drop rate in his career, he cut that percentage down to 4.3 in his senior season. That number was lower than CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy, two of the best pass-catchers this year.

Over four seasons with Baylor, Mims logged 186 receptions, 2,925 yards, and 28 touchdowns. With those numbers, he can surely translate to the professional level and offer the Jets a premium target for Darnold moving forward.