Sam Darnold‘s performance against the Miami Dolphins Sunday highlights problems the New York Jets are familiar with by now.
Sam Darnold‘s return started swimmingly. The New York Jets youngster who missed the past two weeks with a bum shoulder returned to take on the Miami Dolphins and played well early in the contest.
He found Jamison Crowder on a secondary read and found Breshad Perriman with a beauty of a pass on a corner route on the first drive. Six points looked to be the Jets’ future to kick things off at MetLife Stadium.
Then, suddenly, familiarity hit home. Similar to so many Adam Gase-led games over the last 27 such instances, the Jets offense faltered after the first couple of series.
Darnold lost his way after the first couple of drives, showcasing some of the familiar problems that have plagued him during his time under Gase.
The second play of the game featured Darnold hitting Crowder on an inn-cut:
Take note of Darnold’s progression here. Routinely, Darnold is labeled a one-read quarterback by many observers. While that’s certainly true at times, there are plenty of more extreme examples across the NFL—even in winning situations.
Here, Darnold delivers a solid throw on a secondary read. He peeks at the safety and looks left before ultimately coming back to the rock-steady Crowder across the middle.
Just four plays later, Darnold throws a dime to Perriman on the corner:
This is not uncommon for Darnold. Earlier in the season, he threw a rope to Braxton Berrios on a corner route against zone. Here, he hits Perriman on a bit of a smash variation with another wideout running a deeper out.
In what looked to be a zero-blitz pre-snap, Darnold figures he has one-on-one across the board. While it’s technically a zero-blitz, Brian Flores drops two inside. I’m not sure what coverage was called in the huddle but Darnold got away with sneaking the bal into the corner over the other corner who got depth as he peeled off of the out-route.
After a stalled second drive, Darnold found Mims on a dig:
After the play-action, Darnold quickly looks left yet knows where he wants to go with the ball. He ultimately comes around to the Mims dig and it’s a beauty.
Not only is it a nice throw but Mims’s no-fear attitude and catch radius finish the play nicely. The Jets have a good one in No. 11, the Baylor second-rounder.
Next up is a leverage situation. The Jets overload Miami’s zone, which means Darnold has to make a quick decision:
Based on the soft curl-flat cornerback, Darnold had a shot to let it rip to the flat (the shorter out). Instead, he waits an instant too long and is forced to throw it away on the deeper out.
A major part of Darnold’s problems in this one stem from indecision. He’s a touch late at times, something that cost him extra completions and yardage.
Usually, Darnold is tremendous when throwing on the run. The instinctive plays are where he shines, but on the following play, Darnold is just a hair too late when scrambling:
Locating the wideout when he did was fine, but not throwing it quickly enough is what got Darnold into trouble on this one.
A little later in the second quarter, Darnold recovers on a third-and-9 situation:
Notice Mims’s route. What was most likely supposed to be a flat-line path after the pivot turns into a drift. Darnold delivers the ball in between the two late-dropping defenders who initially bluffed a rush.
Darnold’s anticipation against zone was adequate in this game, for the most part. It was man-to-man that gave him fits.
For example, the following fade against man doesn’t give Perriman a chance:
Darnold needed to do his best to look off the deep safety. Starting 2-high, the Dolphins go 1-robber and Darnold has two options once the strong safety drifts towards the sideline. He can hit the seam, which is a little more dangerous as it’s closer to the single-high. Or, he can hit Perriman on the fade.
The seam gets separation but the deep safety doesn’t move an inch. It’s a trend that’s often seen when Darnold plays. His looks are sometimes mechanical. He’ll start left but the safety never moves while understanding he’s going to come back to his right. Here, No. 14 just underthrows this one and doesn’t give his receiver a chance.
Another one of Darnold’s common mistakes is how he breaks the pocket. Natural instinct forces the quarterback to want to break outside:
It becomes an issue when there’s a better path. On this one, Darnold puts Conor McDermott at risk for a holding penalty, and he wastes valuable time by breaking outside of the edge rusher.
Always take the shorter path when looking to break the pocket.
The most egregious non-interception error from Darnold Sunday came near the end of the first half:
Crowder, who starts from the backfield, runs free on the wheel route. Yes, Darnold may not have seen him at all, but why? A wide receiver wheel from the backfield is something that has to be looked at by the quarterback unless something else is too good to be true—especially with the single-high look here.
NFL quarterbacks simply cannot miss these shots in today’s league.
Darnold’s first throw of the second half is a decent one that’s ultimately pulled down by Perriman: