Being a rookie in the NFL is not easy, but being a rookie NFL quarterback is especially difficult. Having to learn the ins and outs of a brand new playbook and having to win the respect of the veterans in the locker room is a bit much even for the ultra-talented Sam Darnold.
The third overall pick out of USC has huge expectations as he is now the starter of the New York Jets and their prized possession regarding the future. With the trading of Teddy Bridgewater to the Saints, it paved the way for Darnold to be the starter.
Here are three things to expect from Darnold as the new man under center:
Sam the Savior
It comes with the territory taken third overall in the NFL Draft. Darnold is the quarterback of the future and, in the minds of a lot of Jets fans, the savior. The Jets have not had a quarterback that their fan base has been this excited about since the days of Chad Pennington who the Jets selected in 2000 and Mark Sanchez another fellow USC quarterback who they took in 2009. Darnold’s first game will be on Monday Night Football against the Detroit Lions on September 9. That will give Jets’ fans the first official look at the future and what great things might just come from him.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
The Jets’ offense has plenty of targets for Darnold to get the ball too. Wide receivers Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Quincy Enunwa, Terrelle Pryor, and Andre Roberts can spread the field. Tightends Eric Tomlinson, rookie Chris Herndon, and Jordan Leggett will give Darnold some big targets to hit in the middle of the field. Running backs Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell, Trenton Cannon are a serviceable committee though they lack star power.
The big key for Darnold is staying upright and being able to find those targets down the field. The offensive line has a been a weak spot for the Jets for years. Spencer Long is the new Jets center and will be surrounded on the offensive line by Brian Winters, James Carpenter, Kelvin Beachum, and Brandon Shell.
If Darnold were able to win the award in 2018, he would be the first rookie quarterback to win the award since Dak Prescott took home the award in 2016. He would be the first Jet to win the award since the award first appeared in 1967.
Not only does Darnold have the pressure of being a rookie quarterback in New York, he is also attempting to lead the Jets to their first playoff appearance in eight years. The pickups they made on defense signing Trumaine Johnson, re-signing Morris Claiborne, and bringing in Avery Williamson could propel a five win team into a playoff team. The key for a Jets playoff run will be put into the hands of the rookie quarterback and his play on the field could determine how the season goes for the Jets.
With the talent around him along with the leadership of the Jets coaching staff, look for Darnold to live up to the expectations and do what is needed to help lead the Jets back to the playoffs in 2018. He could excite a dedicated fan base that has been waiting for a long time for their next future quarterback.