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Poor Snapping Crushed Sam Darnold’s Effectiveness in Miami

NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Undoubtedly the most discussed issue coming out of the debacle that was the Jets’ 13-6 loss in Miami was Spencer Long’s struggles to deliver accurate snaps, a task that was never designed to be a challenge to complete adequately 100% of the time.

I decided to take a look back and find out just how much Long’s snapping issues hurt Sam Darnold and the offense.

Long actually got off to a good start snapping the ball. His first 9 shotgun snaps were perfectly fine.

On the final offensive play of the first half, Long delivered his first terrible snap, high and to the outside forcing Darnold to collect it one-handed.

Darnold was able to scramble and complete an 8-yard pass just short of the sticks to Quincy Enunwa, setting up a 48-yard Jason Myers field goal entering the half.

Unfortunately, that pass was the most productive one Darnold would throw when forced to gather a bad shotgun snap.

In the second half, I counted 12 bad snaps by Long out of 18 shotgun plays. On Long’s 13 bad shotgun snaps in the game - whether they were high, low, left, right, or closer to Miami Beach than Darnold’s hands - Darnold completed 4 of 10 passes for 23 yards and only 1 first down, with 1 pick six and taking 3 sacks.

On the rest of his passes, Darnold still threw 3 interceptions, but completed 17 of 29 passes for 206 yards and 8 first downs while taking only 1 sack.

Darnold’s yards per attempt average (7.1 vs 2.3), first down rate (28% vs 10%), and sack rate (30% vs 3%) all significantly worsened on plays where he was forced to deal with an errant snap. Turnovers aside, Darnold actually produced competent numbers when throwing off of good snaps.

This is not to nullify what was an awful performance from Darnold. After all, he still turned the ball over three times when the snaps were adequate. Four turnovers in a game is unacceptable from a quarterback in any circumstance - teams that turn the ball over 4+ times have won only 11% of the time since 2010.

In Darnold’s case, his turnovers against Miami were mostly brutal. He was also inaccurate, indecisive, and poorly maneuvered the pocket. He royally stunk it up, and there’s no way around it.

However, I found it interesting that his production did indeed take such a stark hit when he was forced to operate off of bad snaps, as perception would suggest. It’s hard to produce quality results when an exchange that is supposed to be routine becomes a chore. Time that is usually used by the quarterback for reading the field and setting his feet is instead used just to gather the ball. Oftentimes on a bad snap, up to half of the usual snap-to-throw time is evaporated before the quarterback even gains control.

The Jets learned the hard way how tough it is to operate with a center delivering inauspicious snaps two-thirds of the time.