Entering his second year as New York's franchise quarterback, Darnold has reportedly demonstrated greater arm strength ahead of his sophomore campaign. Jets coach Adam Gase attributed the increased pace of Darnold's passes to his acclimation to the pace of professional football.
"It was interesting because a lot of people in the spring were saying that to me that it looked like he was throwing the ball with a lot more velocity," Gase told reporters Monday, "and I do remember him saying that last season, it was like arm fatigue in the spring and then in training camp and as the season went on. I think he was able to prepare himself for what he was about to go through in the spring training camp and now the season."
Darnold agreed, adding, "I think it just comes with confidence. Confidence in going out there and knowing that I can do this. It's not that I didn't know that last year, it's just with this offense, I feel like I already know most of it so I'm just going out and spinning it, whereas last year I was still not super comfortable with all the guys and getting in the huddle, feeling timid and I wasn't really myself."
Darnold's first year in the NFL was a whirlwind, as it is for most rookies. From USC's loss in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29, 2017 to the Jets' Week 17 loss to the Patriots on Dec. 30, 2018, there was barely any letting up in Darnold's schedule. He went from college football to combine training, pro-day preparation and myriad workouts with prospective teams. And it didn't slow after he was drafted, as Darnold jumped right into minicamp, training camp and so on and so forth.
All that can be a burden on a young QB -- Darnold entered the league at 20 years young -- and his arm.
"It's just a different deal when you're going through the combine stuff. You throw so much, you're not really sure if it's too much, not enough," Gase explained. "So, he probably just overthrew a little bit last year and it probably wore on him."
The coach said that Darnold's increased throwing velocity allows the sophomore QB to better fit passes into tight windows, even 40 yards down the field, adding, "You don't see a lot of guys being able to do that."
While Darnold cites his commitment to lifting as a reason for his perceived greater arm strength, the QB said keeping his "heart rate up" and his "hips right" were as important to improving as a passer.
The Jets are hoping Darnold's "flexible" and "stable" hips don't lie this season. New York is betting on the Gase-Darnold marriage to work wonders on a offense that boasts multi-purpose weapons in Le'Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and Quincy Enunwa. The Jets' pass-catchers' flexibility in the offensive formation is expected to be as essential to the attack as Darnold's hip flexibility is to his throwing velocity.