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Sam Darnold’s interceptions against the Dolphins were ugly and troubling

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

One thing I’ve learned through the years when evaluating quarterbacks is there are interceptions, and there are INTERCEPTIONS.

You never want to see a turnover, but some picks are less ugly than others. It is one thing when a window closes a fraction of a second early or a receiver contributes to a turnover by running a sloppy route. Then you have the brutal interceptions. These are the turnovers where there the throw has minimal upside.

Unfortunately for the Jets, both of Sam Darnold’s interceptions on Sunday were the latter.

We actually spoke a bit about the first interception yesterday. It was one of the third down plays I pointed out in a criticism of the play calling.

The Jets were in a bad call. They left two extra blockers in. The Dolphins initially only rush four. A fifth blitzer (#55) joins presumably because he was assigned to cover Ryan Griffin. Once he saw Griffin was blocking, he was free to rush the passer.

This leaves the Jets offense in a less than ideal spot. There are seven blockers against initially four and later five rushers. That, however, leaves only three receivers going into a pattern against six defenders in coverage. This is just the wrong play call for this defense.

That said, you still are capable of executing a play even when the call is less than desirable.

In this situation Darnold needs to see off the snap that he has an advantage when it comes to blockers and a disadvantage when it comes to receivers. He is going to need to be patient, stay in the pocket, and give his receivers time to break open. Again since he has the advantage up front, he should have plenty of time.

Instead Darnold abandons a clean pocket.

When you scramble to the right, you essentially take away the possibility of any throw to your left. Denzel Mims was breaking open in that direction. I’m not sure Mims necessarily makes it to the sticks on the play, but he might if Darnold gets the ball out to him. At the very least he might have gotten close enough to give the Jets a chance to go for it on fourth down. Since Darnold took off in the opposite direction, Mims ceased to be an option.

As Darnold gets to the sideline the only receivers in his sight are totally blanketed. The decision here is obvious. The Jets are on the fringes of field goal range down 10. If he throws the ball away, they will at least have a field goal try to make it a one score game. There’s no room to fit a pass in here.

You know what happened instead.

This was just horrendous on every level from not reading the play to abandoning the pocket to not understanding game situation. Beyond that there’s just no upside to this throw. For years I have said I expected Darnold to learn to throw the ball away in situations like this because it should be the easiest thing any quarterback could learn. Throw it away when something isn’t there. Instead he tried to complete an impossible pass.

The second interception isn’t any better. I don’t know any other way to put it. He just totally locks on to a receiver who is covered.

This is just a ridiculous throw. The route is breaking outside, and the defender is playing with the correct leverage. This throw is extremely high risk. And since the gain for a completion would have been 5 yards it is extremely low reward.

These are just the kinds of mistakes a third year quarterback can’t make consistently. The play calling and supporting talent aren’t helping, but they aren’t the reasons Darnold is making these mistakes.