New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was as good as announced, at least for a preseason game.
One day after Cleveland Brown's quarterback Baker Mayfield, the first pick of April's draft, shone in the MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants, Darnold played very well for the jets. Darnold, the draft's third choice, finished 13-of-18 for 96 yards, slowing (and mostly surrendering) in the second half, as he played with mostly players well down the depth chart. Darnold was excellent in the first half. He was 9 of 11 for 74 yards and a pre-half touchdown, in about half a quarter.
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The jets have been looking for quarterback for many years a lasting answer. They were lucky that the Giants persuaded Darnold to drive Saquon Barkley back to # 2. It was just a preseason game, but Darnold did not look like a beginner playing his first NFL snaps.
None of the five rookie quarterbacks from the first round is expected to start the first week of the regular season. But Darnold might have the best shot, especially after playing so well against the Atlanta Falcons.
Sam Darnold's most impressive sequence
Darnold's best sequence came close to the goal line late in the second quarter. He made a good pass for Charles Johnson, who should have been a touchdown, but Johnson dropped him. The next piece, Darnold stayed calm and went through his reads, eventually finding Johnson in the end zone. But Johnson was called to offensive pass interference, which supported the jets.
No problem. Darnold escaped the bag when he felt pressure from the right, rolled out in that manner, and shot Johnson a bullet. This time it stopped.
This was Darnold in his best shape, he diagnosed the game well, used his athleticism to move around, keeping his eyes low and then slapping the train, which is one of his strengths (Darnold had a great, precise throw on the third down) the fourth quarter as he rolled to the left). It was also notable that Darnold did not get nervous after dropping a safe touchdown and recalling another for a punishment.
Darnold's precision on offense was impressive
Darnold was not really noticeable, but that's not a negative. He looked like a veteran in his pocket. He practically read everything correctly. Sometimes that meant shorter passes and check-ups, but that's not the worst approach for a beginner in his first NFL action. Darnold delivered most of his passes with great accuracy. If you did not know that Darnold was a beginner playing in his first NFL action, you would not have recognized his game. He just managed the offense smoothly.
The only negative to Darnold's first half came when he got up, flexing his left hand at the end of a run. Darnold slipped at the end of the rattle, and it seemed he had kicked his finger. Coaches looked at the finger on his non-throwing hand as he came to the sideline, but Darnold missed no games.
Can Darnold win the start job in the first week?
The jets have an interesting quarterback situation. Josh McCown is coming from a surprisingly good 2017 season, but he only holds a place for Darnold. Teddy Bridgewater, a former first-round winner who looked good on Friday night in his first long season in nearly two years, is also an interesting name in the mix.
Darnold was the third quarterback on Friday night and played the last two and a half quarters. McCown started and played a series, then Bridgewater got about a quarter of work. But that means little. The question of how Darnold begins as a beginner is not if, but when. McCown is a solid veteran, but he is not Darnoldian and has been very supportive of USC's rookie. After one of Darnold's first completions against the Falcons, McCown found his fist and called encouragement to Darnold. The jets want Darnold to start sooner rather than later.
McCown was good last season, but if Darnold continues to play in the preseason, as he did on Friday night, there is no reason for the jets not to give their gifted rookie the start job for Week One.
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