When Sam Darnold threw a pick-six on his first ever pass, fans quickly went on social media to throw him under the bust. Darnold was called a bust and was thrown off as a “typical Jets quarterback”. Then, Darnold silenced all the haters. He finished completing 16 of his 21 passes, threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns and led the Jets to 48-17 win. Had it not been for the fact that they ran the ball so much with such a big lead, those numbers would’ve skyrocketed further. Between him and an up and coming defense, Darnold and the Jets seem to be heading towards a bright future, as long as they don’t find a way to screw it up.
While his stats were impressive, Darnold’s calm demeanor is what made him so impressive. After throwing that horrendous pick-six, Darnold showed no fear and learned from his mistake. A rookie quarterback isn’t expected to come on and light the world on fire. However, he’s expected to be hit by adversity and how he responds to it is the most important key to his development. Darnold got hit extremely hard by adversity and he was able to respond by learning from his mistake and not letting that one bad play gets in the way of what would turn out to be an amazing night. Darnold isn’t necessarily in a position to succeed- his offensive line isn’t good, doesn’t have a tight end- but he has shown the ability to make his teammates better, a trait very few quarterbacks have. That trait to go along with his accuracy and elite ability to throw on the run will help turn him into one of the league’s better quarterbacks for years to come.
On defense, the Jets have several key young defenders. Safety Jamaal Adams had an excellent rookie season and continued to show improvement with his impressive performance Monday Night. (1 INT, 5 TKL, 1 TFL) He looks like the face of the Jets defense and will one day become the best safety in the league with his ability to stuff the ran and be excellent in coverage. Third-year linebacker Darron Lee looks primed for a breakout season after a two-interception outing where he also totaled 7 tackles. It doesn’t stop there. The defensive line anchored by an elite run stuffer in Leonard Williams, Adams has a solid safety partner in second-year safety Marcus Maye, and free agent signing Avery Williamson is still just 26 years old and could develop a potentially lethal linebacking duo with Lee.
That being said, the Jets aren’t perfect. Their offensive line is horrendous, they have no tight end and need more certainty at cornerback and need to add one to two edge rushers. However, that’s where they can utilize free agency and the draft. They have over $100 million in cap space next offseason, which means they could be in on every big name. They should be smart though and they can’t spend just to spend and put themselves in a troubling financial system past 2019 like what often happens when teams have way too much cap space. It may not be flashy, but the Jets should avoid signing any skill position or pass rushers in free agency. The reason being that next couple drafts are stacked with pass rushers and skill position players (especially running backs). It may not be flashy, but the Jets should focus on players such as tackle Darryl Williams, guard Ali Marpet, cornerback Ronald Darby, and tight end Tyler Kroft. All of these players are either young or will probably be affordable with “low bust” potential. They all would fit needs that need to get solved in order to build a winning team. I would not necessarily sign all of them, with $70 million seeming to be a maximum of money to spend, but the primary thing that needs to happen is that the Jets can’t overpay for any player in free agency. It’s important to mention that, since overpaying for players they don’t need seems to be right up the Jets ally. Let’s try to give them a chance. After all, they finally drafted the right quarterback in Darnold.
The Jets have solved their biggest question by finding their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold, who has all the traits of an elite quarterback. With him, a young defense, and loads of money, the Jets could become the class of the AFC very soon. As long as they don’t screw it up, in typical Jets fashion.