The last and perhaps the most eye-opening stat showing Darnold’s improvements in the pro ranks is the number of strip sacks he’s suffered in his rookie season: Zero.
This improvement hasn’t been shown over the last three weeks but rather all season. One of the red flags on drafting Darnold was that at Southern Cal he put the ball on the ground too often and would have to work on it at the next level. Well, he’s worked on it.
One who would know about these things is Henry Anderson, who has a career-high seven sacks. He thinks Darnold’s strip-less rookie season could be explained a few ways.
“For one thing, the left tackle has played well,” Anderson said with a hat tip to Kelvin Beachum. “Most of the time you get a strip sack, you’re getting hit from your blind side. So Sam’s blind side would be Beachum, Spencer [Long] and when Carp [James Carpenter] was playing.
“Sam also might have big hands. But I guess, like you would say it about running backs sometimes, you don’t try to make something out nothing. If you’re going to get sacked, you don’t try to be a hero and pull out some miracle. You just take a loss and go on to the next play.”
To put Darnold’s (and Josh McCown’s) zero strip sacks into perspective, if they survive the Patriots’ fumble forcers, it will be the first strip-less season for Jets QBs since Joe Namath/Al Woodall in 1970. Another comparison: Sam’s fellow top-10 rookies, the Browns’ Baker Mayfield, the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Cards’ Josh Rosen, have suffered a combined 11 strip sacks. Here are the rookies’ fumble and strip statistics for the season: