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Sam Darnold’s Schoolyard Football

New York Jets v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The perfect type of receiver for your team in many ways depends on your quarterback.

For the Patriots, receivers who are smart and run precise routes are ideal. In the New England offense, the pass catchers are tasked with making complex reads to lead them to the right destination on their routes. Receivers need to see what Tom Brady sees and adjust their routes accordingly. He knows where the ball needs to go. There are numerous stories of otherwise accomplished wideouts struggling to pick up New England’s system. The next time you watch a Patriots game, you might see Tom Brady airmail a pass because the receiver cut the wrong way against the coverage. This is sometimes followed by what I call the, “Why is this guy on my team?” glare directed at Bill Belichick.

Other quarterbacks play a less precise type of game. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Russell Wilson have made careers out of making big plays outside the structure of the playcall. If Sam Darnold ever hits it big, I think he will be this style of quarterback. Going back to his days at USC, one of the things that made him a special prospect was his ability to adjust on the fly within a play.

To make big things happen, the receivers need to work in tandem.

On Darnold’s first touchdown pass Sunday, Daniel Brown was running a nonthreatening route out of a bunch to the flat.

With nobody initially open, Darnold decided to move to his left.

In this situation it is up to the receiver to understand how to break off his route. This isn’t part of the playcall. It has to be read on the fly. If you are on a short route, and the quarterback is running at you, it might be a good idea to turn up the field. The defender covering you is likely looking at the quarterback and moving in his direction to make a tackle on the scramble.

Brown probably got himself the easiest touchdown he will ever score by breaking his route.

Later in the first half, it was the same story with Ryan Griffin. Griffin started out running a short route to the flat.

This time pressure forced Darnold out of the pocket and to his left.

With his man focused on coming up to make a tackle on the scrambling Darnold, this time Griffin saw daylight down the field and got wide open.

It was another big completion caused by Darnold getting himself on the move, and his receiver breaking his route.

Going forward, the Jets need to surround Darnold with a more talented group of pass catches. With all due respect to Griffin and his excellent performance against Washington, neither of these tight ends should play much of a role in the team’s future plans.

But when the Jets assess potential future acquisitions, flashing an ability to effectively break off routes and find the open space is a trait worth heavily considering.