New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had a lot to gain this offseason. He needed new pieces to support his nascent offense; he needed a steady backup QB to serve as both a mentor and late-game replacement. And he got both in veteran Joe Flacco.
He also had a lot to lose, mainly weight. He’s never quite been in the best condition his body can support. One NFL defensive end even called him out as someone he’s drawn to hit, thanks to his babyface appearance. For Darnold to hit his true potential, he needs experience and conditioning. That means sacrifice, including one Darnold truly struggles with.
Why Sam Darnold can’t enjoy In-N-Out in 2020
In an interview with the New York Post, Darnold revealed the greatest plight of his new approach to offseason conditioning. “I’m not having In-N-Out every single day and making sure I’m eating good food,” the young QB said. That means giving up on his go-to hometown treat.
Eating a fast food meal every day is intuitively a bad move, but Darnold’s daily order put an extra strain on his body. The In-N-Out double-double, with grilled onions, and a Neapolitan shake is a big pile of calories. The shake, with its high sugar content, is likely the biggest offender among this once-daily routine. The carb-heavy fries come in as the second problem for an athlete looking to closely manage their muscle-to-fat ratio.
Darnold’s revamped conditioning plan
Yahoo Sports reports that Darnold’s new routine involves increasing the frequency of his exercise. He’s working out four to five days a week in the lead up to the 2020 season. The goal is to slim down his upper body to maintain flexibility, while bulking up his legs to increase his stride and speed.
He’s also taking advantage of the lack of a preseason by running his own throwing camps. USA Today reports that Darnold invites Jets players from around the country to work on pass-and-receive drills with him. Working out with Le’Veon Bell certainly isn’t a bad way to get one’s arm ready for fall football!
Why 2020 is a make-or-break year for Darnold
Darnold’s first year wasn’t anywhere close to a wash, considering he broke an all-time record for QB efficiency among rookies according to SB Nation. Yet sustained losing streaks have plagued his career so far. He makes notable mistakes, struggling to adjust to the demands of working as a starting QB from the word go.
That shouldn’t be surprising. Almost no NFL QB comes in as fully-formed as Patrick Mahomes. Darnold comes into the NFL with two full seasons of experience behind him. And he’s reportedly hitting the ground running at training camp, thanks to his institutional familiarity with Adam Gase’s offense. Bell, who is also looking revitalized according to CBS Sports, should serve as a far stronger partner in 2020.
That’s the positive side of things. The difficult read on these same elements is that this is Darnold’s third year in the league. 2019 was a painful slog of a year for the Jets that fans and the organization want to quickly move on from. Making mistakes at QB as a rookie, or a second year starter is par for the course; coming in as an experienced player and still faltering isn’t.
It’ll take more than skipping a burger and fries for Darnold to elevate the Jets into the sort of team players hope to be traded to. With the NFL preseason canceled, fans won’t get a definitive look at him until actual games are on the line. The hope is, Darnold’s obvious dedication and increased synchronicity with his teammates will lead to something special in 2020.