This is one in a series of articles that will also appear in the New York Jets 2020 Yearbook, which will be published later this summer.
Like a grizzled veteran, 23-year-old Jets quarterback Sam Darnold entered an unprecedented summer equal parts optimist and realist.
"I think it's safe to say we have a lot of potential, but there is obviously a lot of work to be put in still and we're going to put in that work," Darnold said during the Jets' virtual offseason program.
General manager Joe Douglas began the offseason with an emphasis on doing everything to help Darnold succeed. And he followed through with an offensive line facelift in addition to revamping the wide receiver corps.
"We definitely have the guys to be able to win football games," Darnold said, "but as we see every year, it's about putting everything together. Right now, we've still got a long way to go."
Last year, Darnold went 7-6 as starter and improved in almost every passing category as he connected on 61.9% of his throws for 3,024 yards with 19 TDs and 13 INTs. He wants to become a more consistent performer and the athletic passer is targeting better accuracy both on the move and in the vertical game.
"I think it's just about getting those reps over and over again and putting myself in uncomfortable positions in the pocket and continuing to work on throws on the run, running and setting up throwing," he said.
Darnold has experienced a year in Adam Gase's offense and the head coach wants his quarterback to become an extension of the coaching staff in 2020. But with new personnel around him and the absence of on-field reps in the spring, Darnold will have the responsibility of getting the Jets firing on all cylinders quickly once the season commences.
"He's probably looking at wins, because he never talks about stats," Gase said. "Everybody else is going to look at ratings and touchdown passes, interceptions and yards and all those things. I think he'll look at it as he should make a big jump."