Despite the Jets' 42-21 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore, Coach Gase believes QB Sam Darnold is still taking positive strides in his game.
"His operation of the offense and the way he's taken control at the line of scrimmage," Gase said when asked what Darnold's improvement. "All the little details that you have to have before you really take that next step, he has (taken). I can't sit here and stare at the (QB) rating and be like, 'Well, I wish that was higher.' When you have a couple of games where he threw a lot of interceptions — which we've had two games where it hasn't been ideal — then that is going to happen, and you put yourself behind the eight ball. If that was strictly what we were going on, then I would probably say something different, but the fact that I've seen him improve every week and look at all the little details that nobody can see or really know about, that's what makes me feel really confident that he is going to be a really good player."
In his outing against the Ravens, the second-year gunslinger completed 18 of 32 pass attempts for 218 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, and a QB rating of 85.2, which is among his five lowest ratings this season. When asked to evaluate the areas he's enhanced his game in this season, Darnold admittedly found it difficult after the Jets' ninth loss.
"I think it's tough to answer questions like that, especially after losing a game," Darnold said. "Sometimes it can be hard to see the good and how I'm improving individually just because whenever you lose a game, it sucks, and you want to always try to make it so that we're winning as many games as possible and every week is a success. I think individually, I feel like I'm getting better every week and I'm growing in the offense and we're just continuing to move forward. At the end of the day, like I said last night after the game, I think it just comes down to minimizing those couple critical errors that I make during a game, and if I can eliminate those, we'll be just fine."
Like every quarterback in the league, Darnold has had his share of mistakes. Thursday night, the Jets had an opportunity to get back into the game late in the first half when trailing 21-7, but the Green & White failed to convert on a fourth-and-1 from Baltimore's 7. Minutes later, after the defense forced a three-and-out, the offense had another opportunity to play catch-up before heading into the second half. With nearly 30 seconds to go, the 6-3, 225-pound QB gave the ball up for the first time in the game when a pass intended for TE Daniel Brown was intercepted by Ravens S Chuck Clark.
"I think with experience those plays will start going down," Darnold said. "I won't be making as many mistakes, hopefully, with the more experience I get. Obviously, I'm not using that as an excuse. I'm making decisions in very limited time. They're split-second decisions that I have to make and on one given play during a game where you might have 60 plays. If I make one bad decision, then that hurts the team and they can go down and score the football or put the ball in the end zone and it might change the game. Again, it's just about eliminating those one or two and if I can do that, I think I can put our team in a lot better position than I did last night."
The Jets now turn the page to the final two games of the season, first wrapping up their home schedule Sunday at MetLife against the Steelers. Darnold, who completed balls to seven different passer catches in Week 15, has progressed despite working with multiple different lineups.
"Being in the thick of things right now it is hard for me to really think, 'Hey, he needs this or this or this,'" Gase said. "I know the personnel guys will really help address a lot of those things when we hit the offseason. I will say the number of guys that we've used this year and the different targets that he's really been throwing to, I think he's done a good job of developing some good chemistry with certain guys and finding ways to find completions. We are a couple of weeks away, so it will be easier to answer once we get into that part of the offseason."