ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The numbers don’t lie: Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was better in his second NFL season, which concluded with Sunday’s 13-6 win over the Bills at New Era Field, than he was in his rookie year.
Yet Darnold, the third-overall pick in the 2018 draft, leaves you wanting for more. Like on Sunday against a Bills team that mixed in backup players as it rested some starters for the playoffs.
Darnold completed 23 of 36 passes for 199 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the win — respectable numbers.
But it was a poorly thrown pass to tight end Daniel Brown, who was wide open in the end zone for a certain touchdown in the first half, that dragged his performance down. So, too, did his interception, on which he got unlucky when the ball bounced off the helmet of Buffalo cornerback Taron Johnson and into the arms of teammate Levi Wallace.
“It was a bad throw, one of those throws I’d like to have back,’’ Darnold said of the low ball thrown to Brown.
“I left the ball a little inside,’’ Darnold said of the pick to Wallace.
“I thought he did a pretty good job,’’ Jets coach Adam Gase said. “The interceptions was unfortunate. I could see what he was seeing as he was trying to stick it in there. I thought for the most part he did a pretty good job.’’
Overall, though, it’s the bottom line that mattered most, and that was the Jets winning the game.
“I feel like I always kind of walk away wanting more,’’ Darnold conceded. “I definitely didn’t play my best [Sunday], but I played good enough to win and that’s all that matters to me.’’
In the bigger picture, Darnold’s statistics across the board were better in 2019 than they were in 2018, beginning with his won-loss record as the starter. He was 4-9 his rookie year and 7-6 this season.
In 2018, Darnold started 13 games and completed 239 of 414 for 2,865 yards with 17 TDs, 15 INTs and a passer rating of 77.6
This season, he started 13 games and completed 283 of 441 for 3,024 yards with 19 TDs, 13 INTs and a rating of 84.3.
“I thought I made some improvements,’’ Darnold said. “I need to play more consistent. I learned a ton. Obviously, I would like to have some games back.’’
In 2020, Darnold will be entering his second season in the same system for the first time as a pro, with Adam Gase and his staff returning.
“I feel really comfortable in [the system],’’ he said. “It’s about continuing to grow, talk to Adam as much as I can. I feel like we have really good potential, a ton of potential to have a good year next year.’’
One teammate who’s fired up see Darnold in Year 3 is running back Le’Veon Bell.
“Sam grew up,’’ Bell said. “He obviously was put in a lot of tough situations, having a lot of guys on the offensive line in and out [nine different starting combinations], so protection was an issue early on.
“Him just growing up and understanding his guys — you could see him at practice and walkthroughs putting guys in the right spots, sliding the protection, making audibles at the line of scrimmage. He started doing all of those things little by little. I’m eager to see how much he grows going into next year, too. He’s going to get a lot more comfortable when we really slow it down in the offseason, OTAs and minicamp. It’s going to be fun.’’