The New York Jets have a difficult decision to make in the 2021 off-season. They will have the second overall pick in the draft and could potentially take a quarterback with the pick. This would likely conclude the Sam Darnold era in New York. Darnold hasn’t lived up to his third overall pick status from the 2018 NFL draft, but there are several reasons why the Jets should keep Sam Darnold. From his young age to his performances when healthy, Darnold has had several flashes of franchise potential during his short NFL career. While it can be argued the Jets need to move on from Darnold this off-season, here are four reasons why the New York Jets should keep Darnold.
Why the New York Jets Should Keep Sam Darnold
1. Darnold’s Age
A big reason why the Jets should keep Sam Darnold is that he is only 23 years old. It is hard to judge a quarterback’s potential off their play as a 21 and 22-year-old. Darnold will be entering his fourth season at just 24, which is the same age Joe Burrow entered the league. It would be a great idea for the Jets to give Darnold one more season with an improved offense before deciding to move on. If he improves, they can take his fifth-year option and move forward.
Another reason why the Jets should keep Sam Darnold is that Darnold hasn’t had the best start to a career. The Jets have not fielded a competitive roster in any of Darnold’s three NFL seasons. He has also dealt with several injuries that have kept him from properly developing. Darnold’s young age gives the Jets the option to be patient with their quarterback and use their top draft pick on improving the team around Darnold instead of using it to replace him.
2. Darnold’s College Career
It is important to remember what made Darnold a third overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. His career at USC saw him play 27 games for the Trojans where he threw for over 7,000 yards and 57 touchdowns. He ran for an additional 300 yards and seven touchdowns as well. Darnold’s performance in college, bolstered by the fact he started as a 19-year-old freshman, made him a top prospect in the NFL and shows his potential to develop into a great quarterback. In Darnold’s first season as a starter, he defeated several top tier opponents. Darnold’s Trojans defeated Oregon, Notre Dame, and Penn State to cap off a nine-game win streak.
Darnold went 9-1 as a starter in his first season and dominated against Saquon Barkley’s Penn State squad in the 2017 Rose Bowl. Darnold threw 453 yards and five touchdowns to combat Barkley’s 194-yard performance on the ground. Darnold led a comeback in the fourth quarter down 14 points to eventually lead a game-winning drive that ended with a field goal as time expired. The game cemented Darnold as a top quarterback prospect and his improved stats in 2018 led him to the Jets.
Moments from Darnold’s career like this are important to remember when considering moving on from the quarterback at just 24-years-old and are reminders why the Jets should keep Sam Darnold.
3. Darnold’s 2019 Season
Darnold’s 2019 season had several bright spots despite missing several games. Darnold played 13 games in 2019 and threw for 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. From Week 10 through Week 17, Darnold led the Jets to a 6-2 record. He threw 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in these eight games. He showed great improvement in the late half of the 2019 season and it is difficult to know if that momentum would have continued in 2020 under normal circumstances.
The 2020 season has been surrounded by questions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and combining this with more injury issues has left Darnold’s career following the 2020 season with more questions than answers. Giving the young quarterback another shot in 2021 could be beneficial to the Jets’ roster and should be something they consider this off-season. His 2019 shows promise is another reason why the Jets should keep Sam Darnold.
4. Lack of Opportunity
The biggest thing to consider when evaluating Darnold’s career as a Jet is that he hasn’t been provided with the best opportunity. The Jets have been a basement team in the NFL for Darnold’s entire career and their lack of talent on the roster has led to a difficult time for Darnold when he is healthy. In fact, Darnold has been very successful with the limited weapons and underperforming defense he’s been given during his short career.
Jamison Crowder has been an underrated weapon for Darnold, but his inconsistency has kept him from reaching the status of a true number one option. The Jets have also missed on several free-agent signings that were supposed to help them. Linebacker C.J. Mosley is an example of a top talent that has not worked out so far for New York. The lack of help on the offensive side is a valid argument in the debate for why the Jets should keep Sam Darnold.
They have also had a below-average secondary for Darnold’s entire career. Their best prospect, Jamal Adams, was traded away. It left the Jets with even more holes to fill on defense. On offense, Darnold has been left with no running game with the failure signing of Le’Veon Bell, inconsistent receivers, and a weak offensive line. They have begun to fix the offense around Darnold with their recent draft picks Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims.
If the Jets can hit in free agency and draft more quality players, perhaps they can unlock Darnold’s potential and save themselves from the risks that come with moving on to a new franchise quarterback. Their lack of help around him is another reason why the Jets should keep Sam Darnold.
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