The development of Sam Darnold took another big step forward on Sunday when the reins were finally taken off of him and the game plan. They allowed him to throw the ball downfield.
And he threw it pretty well.
Overall Darnold was only 10 for 22 for 198 yards in the Jets' 34-16 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, but he was outstanding on several of his deep passes -- something that had been missing from his game early in the season. The two best were two absolutely perfect touchdown throws to Robby Anderson -- one for 76 yards and another for 33.
Really, he couldn't have thrown them any better. On both of them, Anderson was hit perfectly in stride. He didn't have to speed up or slow down at all. And the ball landed right on his out-stretched hands, which barely had to reach far at all. The first one travelled farther, but the second was the harder throw. Darnold had to drop it in perfectly along the left sideline in the end zone.
He almost had a third, too -- a 35-yard strike to Quincy Enunwa in the end zone that was just a few inches overthrown. And really, was probably only overthrown because Enunwa's jersey was held in coverage.
The performance shows that they're starting to trust -- and can trust -- Darnold to look down the field. They have clearly been conservative with their young quarterback early this season, and as a result Anderson has been a non-factor. Maybe that's about to change. Anderson has terrific speed and is a great downfield threat. He caught three passes for 123 yards in this game.
The more the Jets can stretch the field, the harder it will be for teams to defend them. And it'll become even easier for Darnold to get comfortable in the NFL.
Here are a few more takeaways from the Jets' big win …
- The Jets' signing of Isaiah Crowell -- who set a franchise record with 219 rushing yards -- was really an underrated genius move in the offseason. Forget the butt-wiping celebration and his ill-advised decision to cash in on that with an endorsement and just focus on his on-field stuff. He is a hard runner with a lot of explosion. You could see that in his 77-yard touchdown run. But even more impressive was a late-second quarter run when was stopped in the backfield by Broncos nose tackle Domata Peko, and Crowell just tossed the 6-3, 325-pounder aside and managed to pick up 4 yards. That showed some impressive strength.
- Impressive job done by the Jets' offensive line in this game. There were plenty of holes for the running backs to get through (Powell added 99 yards on the ground as the Jets rushed for a ridiculous 323). And Von Miller, one of the NFL's most dangerous pass rushers, wasn't much of a factor in this game at all.
- The Jets finished with 512 yards - their most in the Todd Bowles' Era.
- DE Leonard Williams wasn't wrong two weeks ago when he talked about his "hidden production" and how he was influencing the game even though he wasn't racking up the sacks. Still, it was nice to see the sacks start to come. He had 2 1/2 on Sunday, tying his career high, and he was a force in the pass rush. Todd Bowles, calling the defense in the absence of Kacy Rodgers, found ways to get Williams away from the constant double teams.
- Not the best day for Jets WR Quincy Enunwa, who had two drops and was a hair too slow on what could've been a 35-yard touchdown pass from Darnold (replays show his jersey was held by the defensive back covering him). Maybe there was a reason, though. CBS cameras caught him with some sort of brace on his right hand. It's worth noting he had a thumb injury in training camp. This week he was on the injury report, but it was with a hip injury.
- The Jets special teams are shockingly … good. Their punt coverage was terrific, again. And Andre Roberts had a huge punt return at the end of the third quarter -- 51 yards that set the Jets up at the Broncos 11, in perfect position to put the game away.
- C Spencer Long had an issue with shotgun snaps in this game -- three of them very high. He was on the injury report during the week with a finger injury, which is probably why.