Jordan Palmer sees the future in Sam Darnold and he believes the Jets rookie passer won a lottery of sorts when he was selected by the Green & White with the third overall selection in the draft.
The 33-year-old Palmer, who was a member of six NFL teams from 2007-14, is a quarterback consultant who trained Darnold for three months this spring in Southern California. One of the key points of emphasis during their time together was making Darnold left-hand dominant, so keeping two hands on the football would become second nature.
"With Sam, very simply, we just made him hold onto the ball with his left hand all the time," Palmer said on the latest installment of The Official Jets Podcast. "It sounds pretty oversimplified and it is, but it's really any time somebody gets comfortable with having one hand on the ball all the time, we try to isolate that. With Sam, I think it helped. But honestly it's going to come down to the coaching staff and him making it a point of emphasis as he starts his rookie year and I don't really see it being an issue."
While ball security will remain paramount as Darnold makes his transition from the college ranks to the pros, Palmer contends his playmaking ability will make him a winner on Sundays.
"He also took one hand off the ball and ran around and made some amazing plays," he said of Darnold's two years starting at USC. "You don't want him to lose that edge and so I think it's just going to be him managing and minimizing that risk/reward of how he carries the ball in the pocket because I think the future of the quarterback position is the quarterback's ability to create time and space, to buy more time in the pocket."
While leading the Trojans to a 20-4 mark as a starter and completing 64.9% of his passes for 7,229 yards, Darnold kept defenses off balance with his ability to "win" on plays by creating more room and improving angles. A former high school linebacker and a point guard in basketball, the 6'4", 220-pound Darnold has athletic instincts that you can't teach.
"I don't want him to lose a lot of the things that he has which is that creativity in the pocket and I don't think Coach Bates and the staff does either," Palmer said. "So he's in really good hands to be able to learn that and honestly learn behind Josh McCown because I think Josh does a great job of buying time and buying space and he does that through experience and athleticism. Sam is in such a good spot to learn all those things and kind of foster that part of his game."
Head coach Todd Bowles said McCown will enter training camp as the team's starter, but he also insisted Darnold will play if he's ready to play. There will be no timetable on the 20-year-old, who will soon participate in his first OTAs with the Jets. Palmer, who played with McCown in Chicago, believes Darnold couldn't have landed in a better spot.
"If you could draft your veteran quarterback to help your high pick/rookie, Josh would be my first pick in any draft," he said. "That would be the No. 1 overall pick for me in terms of picking veterans and I've played with some good ones."
Palmer doesn't believe Darnold would be a good poker player though. Describing the rookie as "incapable of BS", he recalled of their preparation for team interviews with general managers. The mentor said this is when the future pro would tell a team how great he was going to be, but the apprentice didn't think that would be appropriate.
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"He said honestly I don't care about being the greatest quarterback ever. I just want to be on a team that went on a run, built a dynasty," Palmer said. "I want to be the quarterback on that team and these are his words. I know how important of a role that quarterback is going to play, but I'm not as concerned with being the greatest player ever. I want to be the quarterback on the best team ever."
The humble son of Mike, a medical gas plumber, and Chris, a middle school physical education teacher, Sam Darnold will bring his blue-collar mentality to the Green & White.
"He's all ball. You guys will learn that. I don't want to describe too much of how he is and how he is going to be because I want you guys to be able to see it," Palmer said. "But I know this – it's not going to be too big for him. He's not going to get burnt out on it like the way other guys get burnt out on it. He's not going to look for it either, he's not going to look for that attention. He's not going to make a great play and look around to see and make sure everybody got that on camera. He just wants to play."