FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sam Darnold isn’t the only one who thinks he is close to enjoying a breakthrough. Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates saw progress from the quarterback in Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars.
“It was a step forward in a lot of things for Sam,” Bates said Thursday. “We still have to capitalize on big plays, and you’ve got to find a way to win as a quarterback. That’s what you get judged on.”
The Jets, who have lost three straight, hope a win finally comes Sunday when the Broncos visit MetLife Stadium. Winning, after all, is what matters most. But a main objective this season is having Darnold develop and mature into a successful quarterback.
His last two games haven’t been as good as his first two, but he played much better Sunday than he did the previous week against the Browns.
Darnold threw no touchdown passes, was intercepted twice, completed 48.4 percent of his passes (15 of 31) and had a rating of 38.2 in a Thursday night game in Cleveland. It would have been hard to have worse numbers even against the Jaguars, who have a better defense than the Browns. Darnold was 17-for-34 with one touchdown pass and no interceptions in the 31-12 loss.
“He was more comfortable in the game,” Bates said. “He was seeing things a lot clearer than the Thursday night game. In a sense, the game slowed down for him a little bit compared to the Thursday night game.”
“He’s making progress,” Todd Bowles said. “I was pleased with the way he played and how the game slowed down for him. We’d like to see better results. It’s coming.”
Darnold came to the Jets with a lot of hype after a stellar career at USC, and he lived up to it in his NFL debut. After throwing a pick-6 on his first pass in Detroit, Darnold settled down and completed 16 of 20 for 198 yards and two touchdowns the rest of the way.
A star was born and a bandwagon was jumped on by many who believed the Jets had found their savior. It was just one game, though. It’s going to be a process for Darnold and the Jets. Neither is a finished product, and both have plenty of work to do.
“We’re encouraged by the way he’s handled himself,” Bates said. “He’s owning each week as far as the game plan. He’s going out there ready to play on Sunday. He’s prepared and he’s looking forward to the moment and he’s playing competitive football.”
The truth is the loss to the Jaguars could have been an even better game for Darnold, who overthrew three wide-open receivers. But it also could have been his worst one to date, because the Jaguars should have intercepted him at least two if not three times.
But Darnold said Wednesday that he thinks he’s close to clicking with his receivers and is working on building chemistry with them. Bates believes it’s close to happening.
“We just barely missed them,” he said. “We’ve got to throw and catch, and I have strong confidence that they will continue to get better. They work on it every day. Those incompletions will turn into completions.
“Just continue being Sam, continue growing, continue playing the game fast, taking what they give us. When the opportunity arises for a big play, execute them. Just play a complete game. That’s always a challenge, but as a quarterback, the complete game is getting a win at the end of the day.”