The expectations are high for Sam Darnold as he enters his second professional training camp knowing he is the guy from day one. After a spring crash course of learning a new offense for the third time in three years, he'll be tasked to take it to another level this summer.
"Just mastering the offense and making sure that as he calls plays, a picture pops in his head, so he can start thinking about the defense, is really the next step of what he has to do to get better," said Jets offensive coordinator/QBs coach Dowell Loggains.
The learning curve was accelerated during OTAs and minicamps because defensive coordinator Gregg Williams didn't hold much back. No matter what the package (and Williams has 42 in his arsenal), he is known to turn up the heat and that won't change when temperatures rise in August.
"I think it helps Sam a lot, just seeing all of the different looks and he has so many different, multiple personnel groupings that you know. You're seeing different fronts, different coverages, especially in the third-down stuff," Loggains said. "He's going to accumulate and stack reps of odd floater, overload pressures and trap blitzes and all of those things he's going to get to see. It's going to be tremendous value as the season goes on and it's stuff that he can put away in his toolbox and it's going to come up in week six, seven, eight, and he's getting a lot of good experience from that stuff."
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And sometimes the results weren't the ones Darnold desired in the spring. Sometimes the other side, featuring the likes of S Jamal Adams, ILB C.J. Mosley and DL Leonard Williams, won the battle. But Darnold lives for the competition whether it be on the practice field or under the bright lights of gameday.
"There were a couple times where he throws an interception and I'm not happy about it, he wasn't happy about it and just letting it carry over. Just kind of being able to reset, start over, go to the next play," head coach Adam Gase said. "Those little tiny things, it's all valuable, it's tough against Gregg's defense. You're getting multiple looks day-in and day-out and it's just not slowing down. The good thing is when we hit training camp and start over, now he's heard all this stuff. It's been kind of ingrained in his brain and then we'll get better as we go."
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If Darnold is going to rise in his sophomore campaign, it will have as much to do with his legs as his right arm.
"I think Sam's going to make me a better player, just because he's so mobile and he's going to create opportunities for me that I wouldn't usually have," said RB Le'Veon Bell.
Just 22 years old, Darnold has the ability to put a lot of stress on a defense because he is good in the pocket and special outside of it.
"People person, he works the locker room well, smart, has a lot of the intangibles," said LG Kelechi Osemele said of the signal-caller. "Being able to make plays outside the pocket and scramble — I like an athletic quarterback."
New No. 2
The Jets lost a bright backup in the now retired Josh McCown and decided to replace him with another heady No. 2 in Trevor Siemian. The 27-year-old Siemian, a seventh-round pick of the Broncos in 2015 who is with his third NFL club, will help Darnold in the classroom and has to be ready when called upon.
"Trevor has been a great addition for us because he's really smart, he's a veteran," Loggains said. "He's been around. I think that any time you get veteran players, they have to come in and learn your system, but they know how to think conceptually. For Sam, he's hearing new languages. It is brand new to him. Trevor can say, 'Hey, I've run this play, we called it this,' but he's more of a conceptual thinker."
Turn Up the Volume
Darnold has made it clear to the Jets' playcaller that he doesn't mind tough love.
"I think he likes it better when you're a little aggressive with him," Gase said. "So, I think the first time I actually raised my voice, he was like, 'About time you started getting on me a little bit.' You're always trying to figure out kind of how you need to coach that person and everybody's different. You have to adjust your style to not just a quarterback but all (players)."