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Colts coach Frank Reich: Sam Darnold is the real deal

Colts coach Frank Reich signals from the sideline

Colts coach Frank Reich signals from the sideline during a game against the Patriots on Thursday in Foxborough, Mass.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Colts coach Frank Reich doesn’t know Sam Darnold personally, but he knows good young quarterbacks. Reich said Darnold looks like the real deal.

Before coaching Andrew Luck, Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator during Carson Wentz’s first two NFL seasons. Reich sees some similarities between Wentz and Darnold.

“It feels like to me a little bit of the same personality,” Reich said during a conference call Wednesday. “It’s not too big from the standpoint of not only intellectually but just for lack of a better word emotionally. It’s not too big. The game’s not too big. And physically, being able to make the throws and some of the athleticism.

“I haven’t evaluated Sam’s athleticism compared to someone like Carson or Andrew. But he’s made some really good plays with his feet that honestly surprised me a little bit. I didn’t realize he was that good of an athlete running the ball as well.”

The Jets (2-3) certainly hope Darnold follows Wentz’s career trajectory minus the torn ACL he suffered last year.

They both started as rookies and learned on the job. They both showed tremendous poise, pocket presence and mobility almost immediately. Year 2 was when the much bigger Wentz, who is 6-5, took off. He was likely headed for the NFL MVP award before he suffered a season-ending injury.

The Jets are encouraged about Darnold because they see him improving each week. He’s coming off a three-touchdown, one-interception game Sunday against the Broncos. Wentz didn’t throw three touchdowns in a game as a rookie.

“One of the first observations is it looks like the real deal,” Reich said. “Love his body language. I like the energy I see from him on the field. Just looks like he belongs in that regard and all those little intangibles. It’s funny. You see certain quarterbacks, they have a look and feel to them on the field. You see that in Sam.

“From a throwing standpoint, he’s throwing the ball really accurately and making big plays. Certainly off to a good start to his career.”

This Sunday, Darnold will try to achieve the first two-game win streak of his career against the 1-4 Colts. To accomplish that, he’ll have to beat someone he grew up watching.

Darnold was a USC fan before attending Southern California. He remembers watching Luck play for Stanford and was inspired by him. Luck threw eight TDs with just one interception in three wins over USC.

“I got to watch him a lot, and how they dominated for a little bit up there in the north,” Darnold said. “It was really fun to watch and really cool to see Andrew Luck dissect defenses at such a young age. It was really fun and was kind of inspiring to me.”

Darnold has been compared to Luck as well with his arm strength, ability to move and his accuracy.

“He has more years of experience, but I can see it,” Darnold said. “He likes to extend plays. But at the same time, he likes to hang in there and deliver the ball on time and accurately. I can see some similarities.”

Luck, who led the NFL in 2014 with 40 touchdown passes, is healthy after shoulder surgery and leads the NFL in completions (163) and pass attempts (245). He’s tied for third with 12 touchdowns

“He’s such a bright dude in general. You can see how he takes that to the football field,” Darnold said. “He’s been kind of banged up. But he’s a great player. Our defense has their hands full.”

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