As chaotic as the 2020 NFL season might be because of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing for sure is the New York Jets quarterbacks could not be any clearer. Third-year quarterback Sam Darnold looks to take the next step in his development and establish himself as the franchise quarterback long-term. Former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco joins as Darnold’s backup – once he recovers from neck surgery. Until then, 2020 fourth-round pick James Morgan will hold down the fort behind him. Unless David Fales or Mike White impress the Jets to carry a fourth with Flacco’s health concerns.
2020 New York Jets Preview: Quarterbacks
The Starter: Sam Darnold
Entering last season, there was plenty of optimism for Sam Darnold to take a second-year leap. Unfortunately, mononucleosis, injuries to Quincy Enunwa and Chris Herndon, as well as horrible offensive line play hindered such hopes. Nevertheless, Darnold still stepped up in his second season. Through 13 games, he led the Jets to a 7-6 record, throwing for 3,024 yards at a 61.9% completion rate. He even led three game-winning drives, being the Jets’ most important player on their way to a 6-2 record in the second half of the season.
With all the injuries and criticism around the team in 2019, Darnold stepped up as a leader on and off the field. In the second half of the season, Darnold threw just four interceptions to 15 total touchdowns (13 passing, two rushing). His ability to extend plays and efficiency when in a clean pocket is why so many are expecting Darnold to take such a big step in 2020 with a revamped supporting cast. Receivers Breshad Perriman and second-round pick Denzel Mims join Jamison Crowder in the receiving room, and Herndon returns healthy to pair with Ryan Griffin at tight end. Not to mention Le’Veon Bell returns with Frank Gore and rookie La’Mical Perine in the backfield. With a new-look offensive line too, the Jets are set to fly as high as Darnold can take them.
As good as Darnold looked at times last season, he also looked really bad at times too. Specifically, the two-week stretch against the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars where he combined for eight turnovers and just two touchdowns. Since he entered the league, the question has always been if Darnold is able to limit the turnovers. If he can do that, the same way he did the second half of 2019, then the league will finally see just what he is capable of.
The Backup: Joe Flacco and James Morgan
When Sam Darnold was not starting for the Jets last season, they were 0-3 with just one touchdown and two field goals on offense. After the abysmal play from Luke Falk last season, general manager Joe Douglas clearly saw how important it was to have a fallback in case Darnold misses time again. That being said, there may not be a better option than Joe Flacco. With a 98-73 career record and a Super Bowl ring, Flacco not only has the experience but prior to his injury last season he showed he can still play. However, following his off-season neck surgery, it is unlikely he will be ready Week 1.
That being said, rookie James Morgan will have a chance to backup Darnold to start the season. Known for his arm talent and football IQ, Douglas and the Jets took him as a developmental prospect. With improved decision making, he offers a great backup for the foreseeable future.
The Bubble: David Fales and Mike White
With Flacco’s health up in the air, the Jets very well could place him on the PUP list to start the season. Thus, allowing him to return after six weeks when healthy. In the meantime, the Jets could carry either David Fales or Mike White as a third quarterback. At 29 years old, Fales enters his seventh year in the league. The Jets signed Fales last season, after the disaster that was Luke Falk as their starter. Fales knows head coach Adam Gase’s system very well having spent time in it with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, Mike White looks to make it onto the Jets roster after spending last season on their practice squad. The former Dallas Cowboy‘s fifth-round pick in 2018 has yet to do much in the pros but had a very productive career at Western Kentucky with 63 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.
Last Word on the 2020 New York Jets Preview: Quarterbacks
Thanks to Darnold, the quarterback position is one of the few positions not up for grabs entering 2020. Last season’s meltdown without Darnold showed the backup quarterback spot was a weakness for the Jets. Now with Flacco and Morgan, Gang Green is set for 2020 and beyond behind him.
Stay tuned for the next article in the 2020 New York Jets Preview series with running backs!
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