Sam Darnold isn’t as bad as he has been made out to be the past three years in New York.
He’s probably not as good as the Jets made him look Sunday, either.
The Jets showed us that it doesn’t matter if their quarterback is Darnold, Zach Wilson or Tom Brady — if they’re taking snaps behind New York’s offensive line, they’re going to spend a lot of time on their back. Draft all the quarterbacks you want. Trade them. Draft again. New York’s problem isn’t under center, it’s how the Jets treat the guys who are.
Wilson’s welcome-to-the-NFL moment Sunday came on the Jets’ second passing play when he dropped back to pass and got leveled by Brian Burns, who quickly got up and celebrated as if he were Spider-Man.
By the time the Panthers walked off the field victors by a score of 19-14, Wilson had been sacked five more times, the most painful of which appeared to be a bull-rush up the middle that had 320-pound Derrick Brown laying on his chest.
“It felt like I got hit by a truck there for a second,” Wilson said. “Sometimes you’ve got to catch your breath, take a deep breath and understand we are still in it. You’ve just got to stand up and keep going. So, I was fine. Just got the wind knocked out of me a little bit. And then we were able to go down and execute.”
For all the trouble Wilson had under pressure Sunday at Bank of America Stadium (and let’s not forget to mention he was hurried 10 times), he still passed for 258 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. His completion percentage, however, was a paltry 54.
Wilson, who the Jets drafted second overall in April, is a rare talent. So is Darnold, who they took third overall three Aprils earlier.
The only thing Darnold had going for him Sunday when he passed for 279 yards (more than he did in a single game all of last season) and a touchdown while rushing for another score that Wilson didn’t was that he had superior talent to throw to and a line to block for him. (Darnold was sacked only once.)
That, and Darnold got the benefit of a porous Jets defense while Wilson had first-round draft picks stopping him at every progression.
Wilson is a better passer on the run, Darnold thrives in the pocket. When it comes to who is the better NFL talent, neither sits — nor may ever sit — significantly ahead of the other, and if anything, Wilson may have the brighter upside.
The difference is he plays for the Jets.
And Darnold doesn’t have to anymore.