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One subtle yet encouraging play from Sam Darnold’s first preseason game

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NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes the difference between getting quality quarterback play and not getting quality quarterback play comes in a subtle form.

With that in mind, I wanted to draw your attention to one throw Sam Darnold made on Friday night against the Falcons. What he did on this throw was easy to miss. It wasn’t a particularly important play in the game, but it is an encouraging sign to see Darnold understanding one of the subtleties of the position so soon.

Darnold was looking for Tre McBride on an in breaking route.

Darnold doesn’t lead McBride. The receiver has to stop to catch it rather than catching it in stride.

At this point you might be wondering, “John, isn’t the quarterback supposed to hit the receiver in stride?”

In many instances the answer is yes, but this is not always the case. Take a closer look at this play. There is a defender bearing down on McBride. If Darnold puts the ball further to the inside, McBride would have had a shot to catch it in stride, but the defender would have had a chance to lay a big hit on Darnold’s receiver. That is the type of thing that can result in the ball being dislodged or even injury. The receiver and defender were approximately the same distance from that spot.

I hope you don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not suggesting we enshrine Sam Darnold in the Hall of Fame because he completed this pass in his first preseason game.

My point here is some of what separates good quarterbacks from bad quarterbacks in this league lives in the nuances of the position. It is certainly a good sign that Darnold understands something like this as he is entering the NFL.