In 2018, Sam Darnold was the wide-eyed rookie who teased with occasional Aaron Rodgers moments.
A year ago, he overcame mononucleosis and the New England “ghosts” to finish the season on the rise.
What’s next for Darnold, the New York Jets’ great green hope?
It’s simple: In Year 3, he must be the player who galvanizes the offense — a daunting challenge for someone who will celebrate his 23rd birthday next month.nfl jerseys cheap nike
Without a normal offseason, with no chance to build chemistry with his receivers and establish trust with his offensive line, it’s on Darnold to bring the pieces together. He gets the responsibility because he’s the quarterback, because he’s one of the few players with experience in Adam Gase’s system and because he’s The Franchise. Players of that caliber are supposed to lift those around them. Now is that time for Darnold.
“There’s definitely room to grow,” Darnold said Tuesday, speaking to reporters for the first time since the end of the 2019 season. “Toward the back half of the season, I thought I improved on a lot of things. I thought I got more consistent and was able to get more comfortable with the offense.”
The Jets need a seamless carryover from Darnold because of the way their offense has been constructed. He probably will have four new starters on the offensive line, including rookie Mekhi Becton. He probably will have two new starters at receiver, Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims. That’s a lot of new parts.
In a perfect world, they’d all be in Florham Park, New Jersey, getting to know one another in the classroom and on the field, maybe even hanging out together after hours. But our world is far from perfect, as the coronavirus pandemic has turned the NFL offseason into online learning.new nike nfl jerseys cheap
Every team will be affected, especially those with a lot of new personnel. When the 2020 schedule is released Thursday, the Jets had better hope for a soft beginning because this offense will need time to get acclimated.
Darnold, sheltering at his home in Southern California, said he has a “pretty good setup” in terms of football training. He works out with personal quarterback coach Jordan Palmer and spends a lot of time texting and FaceTiming teammates. He acknowledged “it’s more challenging than normal” because of the remote nature of the offseason.
When the team gets back to Jersey, whenever that might be, Darnold will assume a bigger leadership role than in the past. He’s not a vocal player, but all the newbies will be looking to him for guidance.
“Nothing is going to dramatically change,” he said. “I’m sure, being my second year in the system, I might help out guys more often than I would’ve last year because, for me, I was still getting comfortable and trying to understand things as best I could.”