FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - One quarter of the way through his rookie season, Sam Darnold can feel himself on the verge of a breakthrough.
"I feel like I'm just on the edge," Darnold said.
That's exactly the way NFL scouts seem to feel about him, too.
Despite his early struggles, the Jets' 21-year-old rookie quarterback has shown plenty of good things to several scouts who have watched him, according to a few who spoke to SNY. Their consensus is that Darnold has the obvious tools to be a very good quarterback and has made progress through a difficult opening four games.
They agree with Jets coach Todd Bowles, who said on Thursday that Darnold "is making progress. I'd like better results, but it's coming."
In fact, the scouts seem to believe he's coming soon.
"Yeah, forget the early results," said one NFC scout. "He's 21. His opening stretch (three games in 11 days) was brutal. He's going to make mistakes. They all do. But you can see the talent, the arm strength and the poise.
"This kid is going to win a lot of games in his career."
The Jets obviously agree, which is why they took him No. 3 overall in the NFL Draft, and there's no sign whatsoever that their faith in him has wavered after the first three games. He may be one of the lowest-rated passers in the NFL, but as the scout said, he's showing many positive, encouraging signs.
And none may be more impressive than how he keeps his composure when things go wrong.
"His poise is impressive," said an AFC scout. "He was terrible in Jacksonville. He could've thrown five picks and they could've been run out of the building in the first half. But he kept attacking. He never looked rattled to me. That's something else for a kid that young."
Darnold's poise has been evident since the day he reported to training camp this summer. He has an Eli Manning-like quality of never changing his demeanor and never overreacting when things go wrong. Of course, back in 2004, even Manning at times seemed rattled as a rookie. Darnold has appeared to be nothing but calm.
"I feel like I've just got to move on, next-play mentality when (something bad) happens," he said. "I'm just like, 'Oh man, should have hit him on that one,' because when I let it go I really thought that we had it. To be overthrowing those guys, it's not a great feeling when it happens.
"But you've just got to move on."
That poise isn't the only thing that has impressed scouts, either.
"You can see his arm strength - it's obvious," the NFC scout said. "And he's got a great ability to throw on the run. That's something you have to have in today's game. He's not Patrick Mahomes-mobile, but they can roll him out. And they should probably do that more."
Despite the praise, Darnold isn't exactly lighting it up through four games as he prepares for his return to the Meadowlands this Sunday against the Denver Broncos. He's completed only 57.5 percent of his passes (73 of 127 attempts) for 868 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. His passer rating of 72.6 ranks ahead of only Denver's Case Keenum (72.1) and Buffalo rookie Josh Allen (63.6) among current starters.
But he showed the confidence to throw more downfield in the 31-12 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday. And there were other "positive things," as Bowles said, in how quickly he made some of his decisions and how he made the right adjustments on certain plays.
"I know we're not getting the results," said Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. "I think the game is slowing down for him. It was a step forward. He was more comfortable. He was seeing things a lot clearer than he was in (Cleveland in) that Thursday night game."
And that, the scouts say, is the real sign that the breakthrough is coming.
"You can tell when a young quarterback is lost," the AFC scout said. "Their head is on a swivel. They look like they don't know where to go. You don't see that with this kid. He's decisive. It may not always be the right decision, but that's common for a young quarterback. That part will come."
At some point, and probably soon, it has to, because as Bates said, "You've got to find a way to win as a quarterback. That's what you get judged on."
The scouts, though, are judging him on more than just that.
"Remember, he's not surrounded by a ton of talent there," the NFC scout said. "Let the kid grow up. Put a better team around him. And then don't worry. The wins will come - probably sooner than you think."