Following a game where Jets head coach Todd Bowles said his team took a step back in a 31-12 loss to the Jaguars, both Bowles and quarterback Sam Darnold believe the 21-year-old quarterback took a step forward.
“I felt like I was seeing the field a lot clearer,” Darnold said. “I made some progress there and just being able to see coverages and pressures. I’m feeling more and more confident. Obviously not the outcome we wanted, but I’m feeling more confident as a quarterback in the NFL in general. It was very assuring to watch the film and see how much I’ve grown and also all the stuff I need to work on. I’m optimistic about where our team is headed and where I can grow as a player.”
At the quarter mark of the season, Darnold has completed 57.5% of his passes and thrown for 868 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. While the USC product was held to 167 yards against perhaps the NFL’s top defense, he challenged the Jaguars vertically and he had a few near misses.
“It's something we talked about. We know we need to take more chunks shots down the field and get some big plays or try to get some big plays,” Bowles said. “Or at least back some people up and that was encouraging, we just have to connect on them.”
Darnold failed to connect with running back Bilal Powell and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa on back-to-back plays midway in the second quarter. A successful hook-up on either downfield pass would have put the Jets in scoring position with an opportunity to make it a one-possession game. Down 25-12 with 9:18 left in regulation, Darnold unleashed perhaps his longest throw of the season but overthrew a streaking Robby Anderson.
“I put it out there for him,” Darnold said. “I know Robby can run. I was really just trying to give him a good shot and trying to make the most accurate pass I can make. I threw it a little too long."
He added, "It’s super important to push downfield, just keeping the defense honest. When you got the shots, take them. We did that, we just missed.”