These aren’t the Same old Jets, and it doesn’t matter how the math ends up. Sam Darnold makes them different.
Think about how long it has been since the Jets didn’t go into a game with concerns about their quarterback position. Remember all those weekends of trepidation and crossed fingers and prayers that whoever the Jets’ quarterback was that Sunday wouldn’t ruin the game?
Darnold is already an afterthought in a good way. When the Jets (2-3) face the Colts (1-4) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Darnold might have a great game or he might struggle. But he will learn from it and get better after already proving the Jets right for taking him with the third overall pick in the draft. After five games, quarterback is among the least of the Jets’ concerns.
“He’s six weeks into an NFL season,” head coach Todd Bowles said Friday. “He’s going to have a lot more to learn as the season goes. But he’s progressing well and we’re very happy where he is.”
Through five games, the Jets at least know this: They have their franchise quarterback. Everyone else can get their own. It’s a comforting feeling for many of the young players looking to turn the franchise into a winner.
Fourth-year defensive end Leonard Williams, who leads the team with three sacks, put it this way: “It’s cool to see the progress and direction that we’re learning on this team. Knowing we have some core guys that are going to be here for a while and are going to be able to grow with each other and know each other and learn from each other. I think that’s what it takes to win. I love it.”
In some ways, the Jets have become the Giants’ worst nightmare. They drafted a promising franchise quarterback just as Eli Manning looks finished. Whatever the math is for the Jets this season, at least they’ll have that.
“Sam’s a gamer,” right tackle Brandon Shell said. “He can play. He has good pocket presence. He can run it and he can throw on the run, which saves us. He’s just a good quarterback.”
Stability at quarterback is an unfamiliar, but welcome, feeling for the Jets. It looked like they would never get past the Buttfumble. Mark Sanchez wasn’t Sanchise very long and Fitzmagic eventually turned well, tragic. A locker room fight and a broken jaw derailed Geno Smith, while Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg were draft busts. Darnold appears to have ended the misery.
Through five games, he has completed 83-of-149 for 1,066 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. For what it’s worth, Andrew Luck after five games as a rookie in 2012 was 118-of-221 for 1,488 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He was also 2-3.
Darnold and the Jets could take a huge step in their growth on Sunday by following a 34-16 win over the Broncos last week at MetLife with back-to-back victories in front of their home crowd. They’ve done that just once since the 2011 season and that was last year when they beat the Dolphins and Jags at home on successive Sundays.
The Jets think they’ve learned from September, when they opened the season with a resounding, 48-17, victory at Detroit only to lose their next three games.
“We’ve got a good team,” Darnold said. “It’s just about putting together the pieces. Obviously, we put some together this past Sunday. We just got to build off of it and for me personally I just got to stay consistent.”
As for the rest of the team, Bowles admitted he’s not sure which will show up against the Colts: the one that dominated the Lions and Broncos or the one that melted against the Browns and looked terrible against the Jaguars.
“We’ve had a solid few weeks,” Bowles said. “Unfortunately, the week we played Jacksonville, I thought we had our best practices, and that didn’t go well. We’ve just got to bring it to the game Sunday.”
One thing they’re sure to bring is their franchise quarterback. Everyone else can get their own.