Remember the knock on Sam Darnold coming out of USC? Turnovers. Too many of them.
Darnold is going to have plenty of great plays for the New York Jets, and plenty of mistakes too. But on “Monday Night Football,” his NFL career started in the worst way possible.
After one play, Darnold’s career line read: 0-for-1, 1 INT. His first career pass was picked off by Lions defensive back Quandre Diggs and returned for a touchdown. Darnold became the youngest opening day quarterback in NFL history, and his introduction to the NFL was rough.
A strange play call leads to a pick
The play call for Darnold’s first NFL snap was pretty strange. Darnold faked a handoff left to Bilal Powell and rolled right. There was a little too much penetration up the field that caused Darnold to buy some time, then he threw all the way back to the left.
Diggs was waiting. Whatever misdirection Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was trying to create didn’t work. Powell ran a wheel route to the left, but Diggs stayed put and broke on the ball when Darnold lofted it up. Instead of a quick slant or something similarly easy to get Darnold settled in, the Jets got tricky.
The moment Darnold’s pass went in the air, it was obvious what the final result would be. Diggs had what will probably end up being the easiest pick and touchdown of his career.
The last two quarterbacks, before Darnold, to have their first career passes intercepted and returned for a touchdown? Brett Favre and Jameis Winston.
Give Darnold credit, however, because he calmed down after a tough start. He had a very good first half after that, including a great pass on his first career touchdown to Robby Anderson.
Sam Darnold’s first pass will be memorable, at least
Darnold won the starting job in the preseason, which was no surprise. He was the third overall pick and just had to look OK in August to win the job. And he did look OK, although he didn’t take many chances.
His first play on Monday night in Detroit wasn’t exactly taking a chance. It seemed to be a strange play design that was entirely reliant on the Lions defensive backs falling for the misdirection. If that didn’t happen, it was going to be trouble.
It was trouble. At least we can say this: No matter how Darnold’s career goes from here, we’ll always remember how it started.
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