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USC in the NFL: Sam Darnold and the New York Jets struggle in Cleveland.

Penalties and offensive line woes stunt Darnold’s success in the third game of his NFL career.

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Former USC quarterback Sam Darnold struggles in his third career NFL start and the New York Jets fall to the Cleveland Browns 21-17.

Thursday Night Football was a woeful occasion for New York Jets fans. After leading midway through the second quarter 14-0, the Jets lost their footing and slid downhill the rest of the game.

While the rookie Sam Darnold struggled the entire 60 minutes, his poor performance was not entirely his fault. Jets’ penalties and predictive play calling never gave Darnold a shot to showcase his full potential.

Screen-passes were the dominant play call for Darnold which took away the chance for him to air it out downfield. The Jets’ offensive line had an atrocious game, and it seemed the young quarterback was constantly having to scramble out of a fast collapsing pocket.

The offensive line allowed Darnold to be sacked multiple times, handing momentum to the Cleveland Browns and the full weight of three games in 11 days to be felt by the Jets and Darnold.

The No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft ended the night 15 of 31 for 160 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. Needless to say this was Darnold’s worst game of his youthful NFL career. While he did not give fantasy owners much to brag about, including two game ending interceptions, it was not all bad for the young-gun who showed budding magic in a few instances.

In the third quarter with a familiar pocket collapsing, Darnold twisted and turned to escape a sack for a loss and instead connected for a gain with his receiver just short of the first down.

After the Browns went up 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Darnold marched the Jets down the field and gave New York the chance to tie it up at 17 after a field goal by kicker Jason Myers.

While Darnold should have played better, being that he has the ability and talent to do so, he can’t be expected to deliver on every play if he is getting no help from his teammates. Penalties provide unneccassry hardship on a rookie quarterback and poor protection from his offensive line certainly doesn’t make for any magic in Darnold’s bag.

The former Trojan has a chance to bounce back next Sunday on September 30, when the Jets face the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road.