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Bill O'Brien: Sam Darnold has 'great future' in the NFL

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Sam Darnold has had a nice couple of games since returning from a foot ailment, and a 1-1 record to show for it.

Saturday night produced the latter digit on that mark, a 29-22 loss to the Houston Texans. The Jets hung around for much of the game, but lacked the personnel to muster much of a response after the Texans extended their lead to seven late in the game.

Those personnel deficiencies do not include Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2018 draft who very much looks like the future under center for the Jets. Darnold's night -- a 24-for-38, 253-yard, two-touchdown performance -- again included his fair share of scrambles and well-placed passes, as well as the occasional risk, both on the ground and through the air. But his best throws included relative works of art, with his toss to Robby Anderson coming as Darnold was running to his left before jumping and flinging the ball to his receiver. The other, a perfectly timed loft to Andre Roberts (who ran an excellent sluggo route to beat his matchup), put the Jets in position to tie (Jason Myers missed the extra point attempt) and ensured we weren't in for a one-sided contest.

"Man, Darnold's special," Jets safety Trumaine Johnson said. "And you see it. He's special, man. Kept us in the game, for sure."

In all, it was very clear after the game that the Jets were in the contest because they had Darnold at the controls.

"A great performance," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said of Darnold after the game. "He has a great future in this league. He's a competitor. He didn't do anything tonight that surprised me, but I will say that his ability to keep plays alive, his ability to take a hit and keep coming, his ability to get the ball down the field, he's a great player."

We're just barely getting a peek at Darnold's potential, mainly because he isn't often afforded time or protection to operate within the comfort of a normal offense. Too often, Darnold has to bail out of the pocket and extend plays while frantically searching for targets. Lately, that target has been Anderson, who has caught two touchdown passes from Darnold in as many games.

Beyond that, the pickings have been slim. Jermaine Kearse has all but disappeared from the offense. Darnold has instead been forced to rely on Chris Herndon and Roberts, and the results have been predictably underwhelming, save for Roberts' touchdown. This was painfully apparent when the Jets trailed by seven late, needed a touchdown and didn't come anywhere near scoring.

A season that would otherwise be considered lost can be savored just for the performances of Darnold, which for the first time in a while have given Gang Green's fans hope for the future.

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