Jets quarterback Sam Darnold talks after the team’s 34-16 win over the Broncos on Sunday, Oct. 7, at MetLife Stadium.
Andy Vasquez, Staff Writer, @andy_vasquez
FLORHAM PARK — Frank Reich helped Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz make the remarkable transition from No. 2 pick to MVP candidate in the span of less than two years.
And Reich, Philadelphia’s former offensive coordinator and now the head coach of the Colts, believes that the Jets No. 3 pick Sam Darnold has some of the same traits that have served Wentz so well.
“It feels like to me a little bit of the same personality,” Reich said on a conference call Wednesday as the Jets and Colts prepare for Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium. “It’s not too big, from the standpoint of not only intellectually, but … emotionally. The game’s not too big.
“And then just physically, being able to make the throws. And the athleticism. I haven’t evaluated Sam’s athleticism compared to someone like Carson or Andrew [Luck], but you get to see he’s made some good plays with his feet. He’s made some really good plays with his feet that honestly surprised me a little bit. I didn’t realize he was that good of an athlete running the ball as well.”
Darnold has been inconsistent through the first five games of his career. He has seven touchdowns and six interceptions and is mixing in brilliant plays with some bad mistakes. But Reich says that to be expected from any rookie.
“As he goes, he’s getting better and better and handles more and more,” Reich said. “But the other side of that is he’s still in his first year and there and there tends to tends to be some mistakes as you’re learning week to week.”
This week, Darnold will be vying for the first winning streak of his young career against Andrew Luck and the Colts.
Darnold was growing up in Southern California, rooting for his future team USC, when Luck was the quarterback at Stanford. Darnold remembers watching Luck closely back then.
“It was really fun to watch and really cool to see Andrew Luck dissect defenses at such a young age was really fun and kind of inspiring to me,” Darnold said. “He’s such a bright dude in general and you can see how he takes that to the football field.”
And even though Luck, at 29, is an old man compared to Darnold, the Jets’ rookie believes there are some parallels.
“He definitely has more years of experience, but I can see it,” Darnold said of Luck. “He likes to extend plays, but at the same time he likes to just hang in there and deliver the ball on time and accurately. Yeah, I can see some similarities.”
Meanwhile, in only five games, Darnold has already done enough to impress Reich, who has seen plenty of good quarterback play. He spent 10 years in Buffalo as Hall of Famer Jim Kelly’s backup, served as Philip Rivers’ quarterback coach in San Diego, and of course worked closely with Wentz and Luck.
“It just looks like the real deal,” Reich said of Darnold’s early play. “I love his body language. I like the energy that I see from him on the field. It just looks like he belongs. … It’s funny, you see certain quarterbacks and they just have a look and feel to them on the field. And I think you see that in Sam.”
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