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Darnold looks like rookie in loss to Browns

Sam Darnold may have looked like a Godsend to Jets fans in his first start against the Detroit Lions, but he looked like a frustrated rookie on Thursday in the 21-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns.  The Jets loss was the first win for the Browns since Christmas Eve 2016.  Darnold may have looked like a youngster in the game, but the loss wasn’t all on him.

Darnold went 15 for 31 with just 169 passing yards.  He threw two interceptions, one at the end of the game, and zero touchdowns.  Darnold’s biggest issue on Thursday was his inability to move the ball downfield.  He was inaccurate in his throws, could never get in a rhythm, and ran around the pocket like a chicken with his head cut off.

Offense stalls in loss

Darnold wasn’t the only culprit to under perform in Thursday’s loss.  Bilal Powell had only 73 yards rushing and no catches out of the backfield, the receiving corp of Quincy Enunwa, Robbie Anderson (one fumble lost), and Terrell Pryor couldn’t get open, and the offense was out of rhythm as a whole due to Myles Garrett wreaking havoc on Kelvin Beachum.

Darnold will learn eventually, but this isn’t college anymore.  He can’t force throws into double coverage the way he did on Thursday, or his stat sheet is going to look like that a lot more in the future.  What IS encouraging is that Hall of Fame quarterbacks Troy Aikman, John Elway, and Dan Marino all struggled in their rookie seasons.

Defense lets foot off gas

The defense was also to blame in the loss to the Browns.  After taking a quick 14-0 lead, the Jets defense was unable to sustain any pressure and let the Browns sneak back into the game.  The tide started to change when Baker Mayfield came into the game after Tyrod Taylor was sidelined with a concussion.

Mayfield led the Browns down the field on his first drive, then caught a two point conversion on the “Cleveland Special” from Jarvis Landry after a rushing touchdown.  The Jets didn’t help their own cause, falling into a shell on defense and compiling penalty after penalty on the way to the comeback by the Browns.

Mayfield finished the game 17 for 23 with 201 yards.  He looked like the more composed quarterback and the Jets refused to bring major pressure on the rookie.  Mayfield was able to pick the secondary apart and use his legs to gain extra yardage.

At the end of the day, it’s just the third game in what should be a very good career for Sam Darnold.  He received very little help from everyone on his team not named Isaiah Crowell, and as mentioned before is not the first rookie quarterback to be humbled.  If Darnold can continue to improve incrementally each week, the Jets have a very good shot at being a competitive team for years to come.  Until then, Jet fans need to cool their jets (pun intended) and stop labeling this kid a bust.  It’s a very long season, anything can happen.

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