Once upon a time, the quarterback class of 1983 was one that was talked about for years after the draft. A lot of it had to do with why teams chose the player they did and the reason, smart or otherwise, why they left another on the board. Dan Marino (Dolphins), Jim Kelly (Bills), Todd Blackledge (Chiefs), Ken O’Brien (Jets), Tony Eason (Patriots) were the names. This class has Sam Darnold getting the first start and so far, he’s checked off a lot of boxes for the Jets.
Darnold, drafted third, was the only one who had a start. Josh Allen (Bills), drafted 7th, saw some action in relief. Baker Mayfield (Browns and first overall pick) sat, Josh Rosen (Arizona) sat, Lamar Jackson (Ravens) sat, Mason Rudolph (Steelers) sat. Those are the main names but as we all know somebody could break out in a few years.
The Jets rookie quarterback threw a pick-six with his first throw. That created a lot of buzz on social media and I got a few tweets and texts as well. Jets fans didn’t panic, they sat there and waited to see what else he’d bring to the table in that game. He brought the ability to get out of the pocket. He didn’t lock in on just one receiver, he actually connected on secondary routes. He was 16-21 (76%), threw two touchdowns, had 198 yards, and a 116.8 QBR. The Jets could have scored again but took mercy on the Detroit Lions who they slaughtered 48-17.
Darnold is only 21. He’s going to have hiccups. The Jets running game and receiver core really helped him. That should continue, and Jermaine Kearse didn’t even play.
The Jets defense is good. They have a good secondary, decent linebackers and a mediocre pass rush but good enough to get some wins on the board for the youngster. Marcus Maye didn’t even play in this game and they had five interceptions, doubt that will happen again this season.
Back to the Jets quarterback. It’s been a long time since the Jets had a quarterback who could extend the play. Geno Smith could, but he couldn’t read defenses. Ryan Fitzpatrick did some of that. Chad Pennington a tad of that. Ray Lucas more of that but he wasn’t an accurate passer, Matt Robinson was decent at it for a short time. It’s weird to see a Jets quarterback who has elusiveness and the power to shake some tacklers if need be. At 6-3, 225 he’s very quick and has the best arm for a Jets quarterback since Kellen Clemens. Joe Namath had the best arm in franchise history and I don’t think Darnold is in that category. Namath could heave it 70 yards in the air with mustard back in the day. The ball made a whizzing sound when it traveled in the air.
Let’s see how the season progresses for Darnold. There will be some big challenges. If he could get this team to 8-8 that would be something fans thought would be impossible a year ago.
Some made too much of Darnold’s performance and some made too little because the Lions were awful. That’s why they play the games and the Dolphins are up next in his first home-opener. Let’s see how he does in that game. Back in 1992, Browning Nagle (21-37, 366-2-0) had a terrific first game. Jets fans know this and won’t get overly excited as a result.