Sam Darnold
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

The Jet X Film Room dissects Sam Darnold’s best plays over two seasons as a professional quarterback for the New York Jets.

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Sam Darnold, boys and girls. What is he? Where is he? How good of an NFL quarterback is the USC product? How much “franchise quarterback” respect does he deserve?

All of the above questions (and more) remain incredibly open-ended for a majority of reasons. While coming down with mono to kick off his sophomore campaign didn’t help, finding oneself in one of the worst young-quarterback situations in the league is overwhelmingly tough to overcome.

Quarterbacks need an offensive line. Football offenses need an offensive line. The most underappreciate five-man unit in sports is the most important when looking to kickstart a young signal-caller’s career.

Fortunately for Newe York Jets fans, it looks as though Joe Douglas understands the situation perfectly. He—unlike previous regimes—won’t wait to gobble up big heavies to protect No. 14.

That’s the mission of the moment. But despite some of the struggles Darnold and his offense has endured over two seasons, the California kid has put up numerous eye-popping plays, and that’s what the Jet X Film Room will break down right now.

12. Clutch Touch To Crowder vs. Dallas

Football is a situational game. Not all plays are equal. Take, for example, this one against Dallas in Week 6. Darnold, in his return to action, makes a nice find to Jamison Crowder, but it’s elevated thanks to the situation.

The Cowboys had all of the momentum rolling. Having just scored, New York was aiming to avoid a Week 1 repeat—fourth-quarter collapse. This 1st-Down beauty helped kickstart a clutch drive that eventually put the Jets up eight.

Notice Darnold’s head. He clearly starts left and eventually progresses to Crowder on the other side. Where he places the ball is perfect.

Lastly, appreciate Adam Gase’s call here. A lot of play-callers would have choked on the ball in this situation. Instead, Gase appropriately remained aggressive in this too-good-to-be-true pass-heavy league.

11. An On-the-Run Gem to Herndon vs. Houston

Young Darnold’s best attribute remains consistent: his throw-on-the-run ability. When choosing a possible franchise quarterback, mobility traits jump to the top of the list these days. Don’t be confused; pocket-passers still rule the roost. A championship quarterback is the one who only uses his plus mobility as an added bonus, if all else in the pocket fails.

Darnold fits the bill.

This demonstration showcases Darnold’s on-the-run ability combined with on-the-fly smarts. If Darnold goes against the grain (throws further across his body, which he can and has) and leads Chris Herndon to the left, his natural running direction, it could be trouble.

Instead, Darnold throws it to the right side and appropriately forces Herndon to turn his body around. It’s a brilliant play from a rookie quarterback from many aspects.

10. A Look-Off Score in Detroit

Everybody remembers Sam Darnold’s first NFL pass. Touchdown. …for the opponent.

The most impressive aspect of Darnold’s young career was game No. 1. The kid experienced the worst result on his very first throw, yet he battled back fully and officially. It takes a special mindset to compartmentalize thoughts as rough as those.

Darnold’s first NFL touchdown (for his own team) makes the list. The way he looks off the deep-half safety—forcing him down in a robber spot—allowed Robby Anderson just enough separation to dart free to the end zone on the 9-route.

Oh yeah, did you see the strength on the throw despite the awkward position, the open stance?

9. Dropping it in the Bucket vs. Oakland

Dropping it in a specific window is one of the toughest aspects of NFL quarterbacking. In fact, not all quarterbacks at this level can accomplish this feat.

On the following play, Darnold—who should have run the ball for the first—finds Anderson in between the underneath man coverage and under the single-high safety.

From a pure quarterbacking stance, it’s a terrible decision. On a 3rd-and-short with every defender’s back turned in man coverage, Darnold had open field for days. But when this kid is rolling (and he was rolling in this one, finishing with 315 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing), his confidence allows for some spectacular plays to commence.

8. A Professional Bomb vs. Dallas

How in the world could a not-so-hot pass be considered as part of a tremendous quarterback play? Well, the short answer is this: there’s so much more to the position than just the throw.

Against Dallas, Darnold shined. We saw the best from the kid one week prior to witnessing the worst on Monday Night Football (and a terrible stretch to come). Here, Darnold somehow finds the Temple burner on the double-move.

Folks, the throw itself winds up in a bad spot. It should be more towards the sideline, away from the centerfielder and on the outside shoulder of the vertical route. But how about everything else?

The kid starts left only to eventually come right and notice the single-high safety is shading to the left just a tad. He’s forced to avoid the right-side edge and throw it with an interior lineman in his face. Oh yeah, did he notice the pre-snap safety rotation, putting a much slower Jeff Heath as the single-high safety? If he did, what a pre-snap job by the kid.

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Y’all should probably do a worst plays as well

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