Sam Darnold threw 17 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in 13 games as a rookie in 2018.
The New York Jets open training camp Wednesday at their year-round facility in Florham Park, New Jersey. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Can Sam Darnold improve enough in Year 2 to make the Jets a playoff contender?
Recent history says yes. The past four quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 improved significantly in their second season and made the playoffs — Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky. Except for Mahomes, Darnold has as much upside as any of them. For him, the key is making better decisions on early downs. His passer rating on first and second down was only 78.3; it was 83.5 on third down. It’s usually the other way around for rookies. The reality is, both numbers need to come up a lot. The honeymoon is over and expectations are higher than 2018. That could be a challenge because, as we saw in his final season at USC, Darnold started pressing and committed too many turnovers. So much will hinge on his supporting cast, especially the offensive line.
Can Le’Veon Bell flourish in his post-Pittsburgh career and transform the Jets’ perennially poor offense into something respectable?
From 2012 to 2018, the Jets’ rankings in scoring offense were abysmal — 28, 29, 28, 11, 30, 24, 23. Bell will change that if he recaptures his 2017 form, when he was arguably the best dual-threat running back in the NFL. If used correctly, he can be a major headache for opponents because of his talent and versatility. One opposing scout said he might be the best receiver on the team. The Jets haven’t had a true game changer since Brandon Marshall in 2015. Don’t expect a hiccup-free transition, though. Their prized free-agent acquisition sat out last season, skipped the offseason program and has no chemistry with the line. Be patient, it won’t happen overnight.
Will the new Adam Gase-Joe Douglas leadership tandem, plus the addition of Gregg Williams, eliminate the dysfunction of years past?
You would think so, but anything is possible with the Jets, who became a house divided under the previous regime. In terms of qualifications, Gase and Douglas are way ahead of where Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan were in 2015, their first year as coach and general manager. That bodes well for the Jets. It also bodes well that Gase wanted Douglas as his GM. “Joe D is the best, man,” Gase told ESPN in a recent interview. Keep an eye on the Gase-Williams dynamic. The unofficial over-under for the first sideline blow up is Week 3.
Yes … if this were 2000. Up the middle, this defense is tougher than a 10-mile detour, but the game isn’t played in the trenches anymore. It’s a passing league with spread offenses, challenging defenses to play the majority of the game with sub personnel. That will be an issue for the Jets, who lack cornerback depth and speed at linebacker. Make no mistake, they have some legit players with Mosley, Williams, Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams. They absolutely will be better than 26th in scoring defense, their average ranking over the past three years. But top 10? Not quite.