I don’t think there is a position in sports where stats are more deceptive than at quarterback. If you missed last night’s game, you probably were not impressed by Sam Darnold’s line in the box score. If you watched the game, you probably were very excited by what you saw.
Football is a team game. The quarterback is very important, but he can only do so much. We will be breaking down Darnold’s night plenty in the days to come, but I wanted to show a couple of incompletions that negatively impacted the stat line where Darnold still showed something positive.
3rd and 7-NYJ 33 (5:02) 2nd quarter (Shotgun) 14-S.Darnold pass incomplete deep right to 88-C.Johnson.
This was an incompletion on the stat sheet, and the television announcers suggested it was a poor throw by Darnold, but I actually came away with a different conclusion rewatching it. I think this play showed good things.
The Falcons show blitz with six defenders on this third down play. The Jets have their five offensive linemen and leave George Atkinson in to block so they have a blocker for each blitzer.
This look pretty much gives away the fact that the Falcons are playing man to man with a deep safety in the middle of the field.
Even though the Jets have enough blockers to pick up this blitz, not everybody executes their block successful. Jonotthan Harrison loses his battle, which leaves a defender to get into Darnold’s face.
At this point, Darnold is about to be hit and has no open receivers.
At this point, the only real option he has is to try and throw back shoulder to one of his receivers, and that is the option he takes.
I’ll put this in slow motion for you so you can see it all play out. It certainly appears to me that Charles Johnson does a poor job adjusting to this throw. He’s doesn’t track the ball well, and he isn’t in a position to jump and high point it.
It’s tough to say with 100% certainty how likely it would have been for Johnson to catch that ball had he tracked it better, but at the very least Darnold’s thought process was good. He was in a position where the defense got pressure, and all of his receivers were covered. He made the one decision that conceivably could have resulted in a successful play.
2nd and 5-ATL 47 (10:56) 4th quarter 14-S.Darnold pass incomplete short left to 18-A.Stewart (29-L.McFadden).
This was a play action snap where Dakota Dozier playing left tackle gets beaten. The defender is about to get into Darnold’s face.
Darnold simply slides in the pocket to give himself more time.
It’s a subtle movement, but it’s important. Because Dozier is beaten, he only has leverage to push the pass rusher into Darnold’s original spot. When Darnold moves, Dozier is pushing the pass rusher away from the quarterback. God helps quarterbacks who help themselves.
Darnold then delivers a perfect throw that hits ArDarius Stewart in the hands. You can see from this picture that Stewart wasn’t exactly wide open. Darnold threaded the needle and created a potential completion on a play without good protection or an open receiver.
Stewart just didn’t display the strong hands necessary to win the ball.
Mind you, I am not putting Darnold in Canton just yet because he did these things in his first preseason game.
But I do believe what separates the good quarterbacks from the bad quarterbacks in the NFL is the ability to create opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Almost any quarterback can look good if he’s given stellar protection and open receivers. The good quarterbacks create opportunities for plays on their own.
Neither play was truly spectacular, but on both Darnold created an opportunity for something good even though the defense and his teammates did not give him much to work with. With Quincy Enunwa out there rather than Johnson and Stewart, we might have added two big completions to Darnold’s stat line.