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Packers vs. Jets Q&A: Sam Darnold’s turnover issues

Michael Nania of SB Nation’s New York Jets blog Gang Green Nation discusses rookie QB Sam Darnold’s turnover issues.

NFL: Houston Texans at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers play the against New York Jets in the final road game of their season. Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the Jets and provide some insight into their strengths and weaknesses.

APC: Despite missing several games, Sam Darnold is tied for the league lead in interceptions. How much of fault for Darnold’s turnover struggles falls on him and how much blame belongs to the Jets’ supporting cast and coaching staff?

There are two sides to the turnover coin with Darnold this year - the interception struggles that you mentioned and shockingly quick development in the fumble department. Coming out of USC, in addition to the interceptions, fumbles were considered a major issue with Darnold. He’s done a very impressive job cleaning those up. He clearly has been emphasizing ball security since day one, always keeping two hands on the football as much as possible. In turn, Darnold has yet to actually fumble the ball this year (he has some fumbles to his credit that were either the fault of the center or running back). He’s on pace to join Drew Brees (2011) and Ben Roethlisberger (2015) as the only QBs of the decade to throw over 400 passes without fumbling. He could double the record for rookies in the 21st century.

Interceptions have been another story. As you mentioned, he still leads the league. Part of it is his fault, part of it has been the fault of his surroundings. A lot of his interceptions have just been desperate heaves late in games as Darnold has been presented with unfortunate situations as the team was attempting a comeback. Seven of his picks have come in the fourth quarter. Eleven have been in the second half versus four in the first. He also dealt with some brutal snapping issues that threw off his rhythm greatly in two games. He had a tipped interception and a red zone pick in which now-cut WR Terrelle Pryor quit on a route. So, it’s not all his fault. But Darnold has forced a lot of throws he shouldn’t have and failed to see complex zone coverages. The ball security should come, though. Darnold will likely never be Rodgers-esque with near-zero pick totals, but he should distance himself from the top of the leaderboard. He piled up 4 picks in one Dolphins game where everything collapsed on him (including 15+ passing attempts on errant shotgun snaps in one half) and that bloated his totals. He has one pick in his past two games since returning from injury. I think he’ll be OK here, but it’s one of his biggest questions he’ll need to answer.

We’d like to thank Michael for his insight. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over at Gang Green Nation as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Jets. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Packers versus Jets.