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Breaking down Sam Darnold’s 2018 production by route type and field side

Michael Nania breaks out the charts in a Darnold deep dive

NFL: New York Jets-Training Camp Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, I concluded my series of breakdowns in which I took a look back at each of Sam Darnold’s 13 games in 2018 and analyzed the data behind his performances.

Now having completed Darnold’s entire rookie season, I’ll be delving into his season numbers from a variety of different angles.

In this breakdown, we’ll slice up Darnold’s production by route type, and take a look at how his production throwing each route differed based on field side, which I designated based on the side of the field the targeted receiver lined up.


The first diagram showcases Darnold’s first down totals throwing each route to each side.

Darnold’s top first down producer was the curl route to the right side, throwing 14 first downs on those. The curl route was his top route for first downs overall, as I had him picking up 22 firsts on curls.

Darnold’s number two route overall for first downs was the slant, in which I had him picking up 21 firsts. Like the curl, Darnold was more productive on the slant to his right, where he threw 12 first downs, making it his #2 side-specific first down producing route.

Despite his top two first down-producing routes coming on the right side, Darnold posted slightly better numbers overall on the left side. His top route over there in terms of first downs was the out route, where he threw 10 firsts. Darnold’s out route tied with the screen for third in overall first down completions, with 15 apiece. Similar to the out, Darnold got much more production out of the screen pass to his left, as the Jets called 12 more screen plays for him to his left than to his right.

This next diagram breaks down the number of pass attempts Darnold threw with each route type to each side.

Let’s take a look at how Darnold’s production wavered from side to side with each route type. The charts below showcase the differences in Darnold’s numbers between the two sides for each route, in a few different metrics.

The fade route took the cake for the route that saw the biggest difference in accuracy from side to side, but that was due to small sample size. Darnold completed 2 of 4 fades to his left, but 0 of 4 to his right.

Darnold was much more productive with the go route to his left than to his right. He threw for 151 more yards on go routes to the left, his biggest difference on any route. He also connected on five go route touchdowns to his left, his most touchdowns on any route to a particular side, while he didn’t throw any touchdowns on go routes to his right.

Darnold was more accurate on curls to his left, and didn’t see a big difference in his yardage on that route based on field side. However, he was much more adept at moving the chains on curls to his right, picking up six more firsts on that side.


A few more observations:

  • Darnold was generally much better on out-breaking routes to his left side. To the left, Darnold completed 24 of 30 out and comeback routes for 272 yards and 13 first downs, for stellar marks of 9.1 yards per attempt and a 43% first down rate. To the right, Darnold completed 13 of 32 out and comeback routes for 107 yards and five first downs, for brutal numbers of 3.3 yards per attempt and a 16% first down rate.
  • However, Darnold hit the other out-breaking route better to his right — the corner. It’s a small sample size, but Darnold completed 7 of 10 corners to his right and only 3 of 7 on his left (both drop-adjusted).
  • Contrary to his out-breaking production, Darnold was generally much more productive on in-breaking routes to his right. To the right, Darnold completed 21 of 31 slant and dig routes for 371 yards and 18 first downs, for phenomenal numbers of 12.0 yards per attempt and a 58.1% first down rate. That’s with two of those incomplete passes dropped. On the left, Darnold completed 16 of 30 slant and dig routes for 215 yards and 12 first downs, for more average numbers of 7.2 yards per attempt and a 40% first down rate (also with two drops).

Here is a full look at the differences in Darnold’s production by field side for each route. Green (and positive) represents more production on the left, while red (and negative) represents more production on the right.

Previous breakdowns:

Weeks 1-2 (@ Detroit and vs Miami)

Weeks 3-4 (@ Cleveland and @ Jacksonville)

Weeks 5-6 (vs Denver and vs Indianapolis)

Weeks 7-8 (vs Minnesota and @ Chicago)

Week 9 (@ Miami)

Week 14 (@ Buffalo)

Week 15 (vs. Houston)

Week 16 (vs. Green Bay)

Week 17 (@ New England)