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Jets believe Sam Darnold is ready to make big forward move this season


FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 14: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets runs drills at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on August 14, 2020 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) Credit: Getty Images/Mike Stobe

Sam Darnold cut down on In-N-Out in the off-season, and hopes to limit Three-N-Outs this season.

Darnold or his conditioning wasn’t the reason the Jets’ offense sputtered for much of last season. But he will be a major factor in what they do in 2020, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic prevented teams from having any offseason activities and delayed the on-field portion of training camp for three weeks.

The third-year quarterback had extra time to dissect and study Adam Gase’s offense, and work on his body and arm strength. Darnold is more confident in himself and the system, and Jets insiders can see the 23-year-old is ready for a big leap this season.

“The biggest thing I see with him is command,” Dowell Loggains, the Jets' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said. “He can speak with more confidence . . . Those last eight games last season you could see Sam taking strides, and doing things right, starting to learn the protections. I see him have confidence and his ability to communicate with myself, coach Gase and his teammates. That’s what you hope to see in the second year of the system — the command of the offense.

“Last year he learned it. We need to see command of it now and become an extension of the coaching staff.”

When Darnold wasn’t poring over film of last season, he was working on getting his lower body stronger and keeping his arm loose and ready. He also kept away from that enticing west coast burger chain.

Darnold, the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft, wants last year’s finish to be the jumping off point for this season, and the rest of his career.

The Jets ended the 2019 season on a 6-2 run. Darnold threw 13 touchdown passes and four interceptions, and had a 93.3 quarterback rating over those final eight games. Darnold is 11-15 overall as a starter with 36 touchdown passes, 28 interceptions, and a rating of 81.1.

The jury is still out on whether he can lead the Jets deep into the playoffs or to their first Super Bowl since the 1969 season. But Darnold hasn’t had much continuity in  his first two seasons or the best surrounding talent.

Darnold has played for two head coaches and two coordinators. Tight end Chris Herndon is the only skill player remaining from 2018. Darnold is playing behind a new offensive line that general manager Joe Douglas has assembled   with the aim of keeping Darnold healthy and giving him time to make plays.

Running back Le’Veon Bell said  Darnold is taking more ownership and leadership, and he wants to see it play out on the field.

“Sam’s a lot more comfortable,” Bell said. “You can tell just by the way he’s talking to guys. It’s more of a sternness to him. He’s like, ‘All right guys we got to get this thing going.’ He feels a lot more comfortable. He holds guys accountable because he doesn’t want to mess up. Even with coach Gase, he may call something and Sam’s correcting him.

"Sam can get to that point where he’s really starting to understand the offense. It’s going to be fun. Going through the walk-throughs last year compared to this year, it’s like night and day with Sam. It’s clicking.”

Some of that ownership showed in Darnold gathering his skill players to Florida, when the COVID-19 numbers there were low, for a little camp. Among players participating were Bell, and first-year Jets Frank Gore, Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims. Darnold said that helped him get to know some of the players, and he said he will continue to help them as much as possible.

“I already know the system,” Darnold said. “I’m just trying to build off that. This whole offseason was building off what I already knew, which was nice.”

Darnold and the Jets believe it will show in the results.

Stony Brook’s Davis signs

 The Jets signed TE Connor Davis, a former Stony Brook standout, and released S Anthony Cioffi. Davis, who lined up at tight end, offensive tackle and defensive end for the Seawolves, has played for the St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL and the Birmingham Iron in the Alliance of American Football. The Jets also activated rookie DB back Shyheim Carter from the reserve/COVID-19 list and released LB Ahmad Gooden.

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