We’ve reached the finish line! I have been re-watching all of Sam Darnold’s throws from the 2018 season, going game-by-game charting his production by route type.
In addition, I’ve broken down his numbers based on a few different factors, including field side, number of rushers, and throw depth. I also decided to track the frequency of select notable occurrences, such as a tally of Darnold’s total “improvised” production (a revered staple of his), and a count of drops, among other things.
Previously, I ran through a few of the most notable statistical tidbits I found from tracking Darnold in Week 16, as he had a phenomenal performance against the Green Bay Packers in a head-to-head contest with Aaron Rodgers. In this edition, we’ll break down Darnold’s production in Week 17, his first clash against Tom Brady.
Before we start diving in, here is a look at the collection of route types I’ve been tracking.
Obviously, there is a seemingly infinite number of complex route concepts that could not possibly fit in that picture. I went with a simplified collection of 15 route types. I thought this lineup was perfect for having enough variety to capture every throw while not going overboard with specificity.
It’s sometimes difficult to tell exactly what route a receiver is trying to run. Other times, there will be instances where a receiver will run a more complex route that features a combination of multiple routes seen above, such as an out-and-up or slant-and-go among others. I assigned route types based on the nature of the throw for Darnold. Whichever route type best matched the angle, depth, and overall essence of the throw Darnold had to make, would be the one I’d go with.
In Week 17, Sam Darnold was not able to match the impressive box score numbers he posted in his previous two games, but in a few ways he did continue to build on the momentum he had been mounting since his return from injury.
Let’s take a look at the numbers behind Darnold’s outing against the Patriots.
Jets 3, Patriots 38. Darnold: 16 for 28, 167 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions (74.6 passer rating, 6.0 yards per attempt)
- Against the Pats, Darnold wasn’t quite the superstar he looked like in Weeks 15 and 16, but he did showcase quite a few positive signs throughout the game. Overall, it was a decent performance, regardless of the stats or final score. The Jets offense put forth horrid performances in pass protection, in the running game, and in the receiving game. Opportunities for success were scarce. Darnold usually did about all he could to maximize each play, consistently showcasing sound decision-making as he often chose the best option available.
- 76% of Darnold’s passing yards against the Patriots came through the air, by far a season high. As evidenced by Darnold’s high ratio of air yardage, his receivers didn’t do much of anything for him after the catch. The Jets did not run a single designed screen in this game, the first and only time that had happened all season.
- In our last breakdown, I pointed out that Darnold had his most balanced route distribution of the season, based on the fact that his most used routes made up a smaller portion of his throws than he had posted in any game before. Against the Pats, Darnold again set a new season record for even route distribution. His most thrown route was a tie between the curl, out, and slant routes, with four attempts apiece. They each made up about 15.4% of Darnold’s non-throwaway attempts, barely edging out the 15.6% rate Darnold posted in the Packers game for a new season low.
- Despite his impressive showing of decision making and poise, Darnold’s accuracy was a little shaky in Foxborough, the main reason his performance dwindled from “great” to just “decent.” He often found his throws on horizontal routes not far enough ahead of his targets, forcing them to slow down and lose separation. Adjusting for drops and throwaways, he was accurate on 65.4% of his attempts, a below average (but not terrible) number that was the lowest of his four post-injury games.
With that said, there were still quite a few flashes of remarkable touch from Darnold in his trip to Massachusetts. Some of his most impressive dimes of the year came in this game. Darnold connected with former USC teammate Deontay Burnett on a pair beautiful corner routes for 20+ yard gains. How about the touch on these?
The corner became a deadly weapon for Darnold after his return from injury. Over his first nine games, Darnold completed only 4 of 11 corner routes for 64 yards (5.8 yards per attempt, 36.4% first down rate). Over his final four games, Darnold completed 5 of 6 corner routes for 112 yards (18.7 yards per attempt, 83.3% first down rate). On the season, Darnold picked up a first down on 52.9% (9 of 17) of his corner route attempts, making it his most efficient first down-producing route.
- The Patriots were very aggressive with their pass rush against Darnold. In the game, he attempted a season high six passes against six rushers or more — that made up over a quarter of Darnold’s attempts against a six-plus man rush all season (23 passes). New England’s blitz was very effective, as Darnold’s production progressively worsened with more pressure.
Here is a look at my final breakdown of Darnold’s production by route type in 2018.
This won’t be all! Now that I’ve finished recording data for Darnold’s entire rookie season, I’ll have more breakdowns coming up soon taking a look at the numbers from a variety of different angles. Stay tuned!