Through the first three games of the 2021 season, quarterback Sam Darnold has looked the part of the third overall pick everyone expected him to be after he was drafted back in 2018. On Thursday Night football, he put together arguably his best performance of the young 2021 season.
Darnold completed 23 of 34 passing attempts for 304 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions; but he did pick up a couple on the ground. It was a performance that was saw him show a solid understanding of the offense and an ability to quickly work his way through his reads in a relatively new offense. One example of that is the below pass to Tommy Tremble off of play action, he quickly ascertains that his wideouts in the middle are covered so he works to the outside and hits the wide open rookie.
For a quarterback that’s only been in this offense for a handfull of months, that’s really impressive; especially since the 24-year old struggled with working through reads in New York — although that might be the constant state of disfunction on the Jets’ offensive line.
Another example of how Darnold has dramatically improved in a new environment is on this play midway through the first quarter. The Texans brought three and dropped everyone into zone on 3rd and nine. Houston’s nose tackle breaks through the block and forces the quarterback out of the pocket; he keeps his eyes down field which allowed him to find DJ Moore in the middle of the defense.
While his performance on Thursday night was pretty damn good, it’s been another sign so far that getting away from Adam Gates and the Jets was exactly what he needed. So far in 2021, he’s averaged 8.3 yards per attempt and 12.2 yards per catch (both are career highs) with a career low interception rate of 0.9%. If the 24-year old can play anywhere near this level as the schedule gets tougher — Carolina plays Tampa Bay in two of its last three games — then this could be the breakout season that his talent has teased us with at times in the previous three seasons.