Sam Darnold spent his weekend with friends, watching football and self-evaluating. What the Jets rookie quarterback determined is he can be much better.
Darnold is going to be his toughest critic because he expects so much from himself. But after two straight losses, during which he totaled one touchdown and four interceptions, Darnold feels he needs to be more decisive and has to trust himself more.
“Just going with my gut feeling and really trusting my eyes, trusting what I see and letting it rip,” Darnold said on a conference call Monday afternoon. “Every time I look back at it, my first read I think the defense is not going to give me something and I would skip over a progression. And it was like, ‘If I really look at that first progression, it was there.’ A couple plays popped up like that.
“From that perspective, I just wish that sometimes I could just trust my gut and trust the progression. If I continue to do that throughout the season, I feel like I’ll have a lot of success.”
This is normal for rookie quarterbacks, especially ones thrown right into the fire with an unorthodox schedule. The Jets played three games in 11 days, which means Darnold had to quickly prepare for and digest and process information on opponents very quickly.
Darnold admitted the days following Thursday’s loss to the Browns were “pretty hard,” and not because Cleveland ended its 635-day winless drought against the Jets. Darnold was 15-for-31 for 169 yards and no touchdowns, and he threw two picks in the last 1:21 of the 21-17 loss.
Todd Bowles praised Darnold the next day, saying he thought he “grew a lot.” Bowles called it one of Darnold’s better games, and said it was one of his better games from the standpoint of mental toughness and overall toughness.
Darnold appreciated the kind words, but he’s disappointed with himself.
“That’s awesome that Coach said that and he would notice that, but I expect more out of myself,” Darnold said. “It’s great that he praises me for my toughness. I feel like we've got a lot of tough guys on this team. I got to be better. I got to execute better. I know how to be tough. I was raised to be that way. I’m not going to be anything different. I just got to be better with my reads and understanding what the defense is doing and just be better, be a better quarterback.
“I feel like I’m pretty tough in general, but when it comes to reading the defense and knowing where to go with the ball I got to be better in that area.”
Darnold has already moved on, and so have his teammates.
The Jets are back to a regular work week and getting ready for one of the toughest defenses in the league when they play Sunday in Jacksonville.
Darnold already showed he’s mentally tough the way he bounced back in Detroit after throwing a pick-six on his first NFL pass. Now all eyes will be on how Darnold responds to this latest stretch of adversity. But no one inside the Jets building seems overly concerned.
“I think he’ll come out of it fine,” Bowles said. “I think Sam has the right mentality and he has the right work ethic to learn what he’s done wrong. As well as the rest of the team to come back at it with. He’s not in it by himself. We’re in it as a team.
“He made some good plays. He had some plays he can learn from and some plays he’d like to have back. I think he’ll come out of it fine.”