Of the three picks, the first is the one where I’d put little to no blame on Darnold.
As Darnold is throwing the ball, Lawrence Cager has the proper leverage. He is in position to use his big frame to create a throwing lane.
Cager lets Xavier Rhodes undercut him at the top of the route and doesn’t fight his way back to the ball.
I know Cager is an undrafted rookie who isn’t ready to see the field, but I’m sorry. That can’t happen. When you don’t work to get back to the ball, you are hanging your quarterback out to dry. In an NFL passing the game, the quarterback has to be able to trust that his receiver will work his way back to contest a ball like this. If you can’t count on him to do that, you can’t throw the ball.
Not good enough.
This happened on a first and goal from the Indianapolis 7 yard line in the second quarter.
Chris Hogan is running a route into the flat, which draws the attention of Colts defenders.
Based on the way things develop on the other side of the field, the Colts are in some sort of zone defense, and there is miscommunication.
Rhodes things he is supposed to leave Cager to pick up Hogan. However, Kenny Moore sticks with Hogan as well.
Rhodes thought Moore would switch to Cager. Moore thought Rhodes would stay on Cager. Both players went to Hogan so Cager is open.
I think Darnold was just too late to read the breakdown. Here’s where Cager was when the Colts miscommunication happened.
Here’s where he is at the point Darnold is throwing.
That might not look like that big of a difference, but you have to remember how quickly things develop in the NFL. Players are fast. Being a split second late gives Rhodes enough time to recover and get back into the play. You might be able to get away with being a tad late in college, but that won’t work in the pros.
The other point I will make is that this ball cannot be underthrown. There has to be enough arc and power on this throw to get it over Rhodes’ head to the back of the end zone where either Cager gets it or it goes out of the back of the end zone.
This is first and goal from the 7. If you miss long and throw an incompletion, so be it. You still have two more chances. The worst case scenario should be 3 points. Darnold can’t put the ball at risk by making a throw that Rhodes can get his hands on. This has to either be a touchdown or an incompletion.
I have watched this play over and over, and I still have no idea what happened. These are the two Jets receivers closest to where the ball went.
Perhaps Darnold was trying to hit Braxton Berrios and missed wildly.
Maybe Darnold was expecting Hogan to break inside and sit down.
At first I figured this was some sort of miscommunication perhaps brought on by Hogan’s lack of familiarity with the system and chemistry with Darnold. In situations like this I listen to the coach’s postgame press conference since he called the play. Adam Gase kind of alluded to Cager’s route running when he talked how the first interception, but he didn’t suggest there was any sort of miscommunication on this one.
I’m still not sure what Darnold was seeing here.