It was clear that Sam Darnold was locked in during Saturday’s game, but one throw in particular showed me just how well he was seeing the field. Throws like this are also what give me a lot of confidence about his future.
The throw was his touchdown pass to Andre Roberts.
Roberts runs a slant and go or sluggo route. This means he fakes a move inside as though he’s running a slant and then turns up the field.
As he sells the slant, the defender covering him breaks inside to take it away.
Then Roberts heads up the field. This is where Darnold really stands out to me. Look at where Roberts and the defender are when Sam is winding up to throw. Roberts doesn’t have separation yet.
But Sam sees Roberts heading up the field, and the defender is off balance. He took a false step inside and now needs to regather himself to follow Roberts. Based on this leverage, Darnold knows that Roberts is going to blow past the defender. There is no way this defender as he changes direction is going to be able to keep up stride for stride with Roberts.
I think there are only a handful of important traits that separate quarterbacks who thrive in the NFL from those who don’t. One of those important traits is anticipation. There are a lot of throws that you have to make before the receiver is actually open. You need to be able to see in advance where and when the receiver is open.
Look at where Roberts is on the field after he actually has a step on the defender. If Darnold had waited until this point to throw the ball, there wouldn’t have been enough room to complete the pass. He would have had to throw it to a small window in the field of play. Roberts would have had to stop, and the defender would have had time to recover.
There were plenty of plays in this game from Darnold that impressed me, but seeing him win from the pocket like this is what shows me the future could be very bright.