In his NFL regular season debut, Sam Darnold led the New York Jets to an impressive victory over the Detroit Lions. His target of choice in that performance? Quincy Enunwa.
Two years ago, Quincy Enunwa stepped out of the shadows of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker to lead the New York Jets with 857 receiving yards. A fast and strong wideout who averaged nearly 15 yards per reception, Enunwa seemed headed for future stardom at the age of 24.
Unfortunately, Enunwa wasn’t able to follow up on his 2016 season, as he missed the entire 2017 campaign with a scary neck injury, hitting the injured reserve in August before his encore year could truly get started.
Now in 2018, Enunwa is as determined as ever to make a huge impact on the Jets offense, and it already sounds like he and rookie quarterback Sam Darnold have something special planned for defenses this season.
According to the New York Daily News’s Manish Mehta, Darnold had effusive praise for his No. 1 wide receiver, referring to Enunwa as “smooth” and “very quick”, and it was quite interesting to hear him refer to Enunwa’s routes as “very violent”.
In their first regular season game together, Darnold made liberal use of Enunwa’s talents against the Detroit Lions secondary. Although Darnold only stepped back to throw the ball 21 times in a game that the Jets were dominating, 10 of those pass attempts were directed towards Enunwa, whose previous career-high for average targets per game is 6.6
Enunwa converted those ten targets into a team-high six receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t the most efficient display from Enunwa, given that he averaged 8.2 yards per target in his breakout 2016 campaign, but it was an encouraging game.
Not only did the Jets blow out the Lions 48-17 in Darnold’s first start at quarterback, but the fact that Darnold already trusts Enunwa enough to give him frequent looks is huge for this offense. We’ve seen Derek Carr (on the same night, no less) show a lack of confidence in his wide receivers, so for Darnold to be willing to hit up his No. 1 receiver on nearly half of his pass attempts is a sign that the trust is there. Once Darnold and Enunwa play more regular season games together, this connection should flourish.
The Jets passing attack has a couple of other solid pieces in offseason acquisition Terrelle Pryor, running back Bilal Powell, and the explosive Robby Anderson, but Enunwa seems to be locked in as Darnold’s weapon of choice. Knowing how athletic Enunwa is and hearing Darnold gush over the former Nebraska standout’s route-running, the QB’s willingness to target Enunwa is certainly understandable.
On an expiring contract and coming off of a serious injury, Enunwa has plenty to prove in 2018, and he’s hoping that this budding rapport with Darnold will pay off for him financially in 2019. If Darnold and Enunwa can stay on the same page and start cutting defenses apart after Darnold’s crisp, resilient display against the Lions in Week 1, then Enunwa could convince the Jets brass to give him the first legit payday of his NFL career.
The Enunwa and Darnold connection is a development worth watching in Week 2 when the Jets take on the rival Miami Dolphins, who had no trouble handling an uneven performance by the Titans passing attack in Week 1. Based on what Darnold showed on Monday, it’s safe to say that he and the Jets offense will be better prepared for the Dolphins talented defensive ends.