The New York Jets have probably made up their mind about who will start at quarterback for them in Week 1. If they were leaning toward giving rookie Sam Darnold the start, Thursday night probably brought them closer to making it official.
Darnold, the third pick of this year’s draft, followed up last week’s promising preseason debut with another solid game Thursday night against the Washington Redskins. It wasn’t perfect, but Darnold showed plenty. He has displayed all the physical skills the Jets thought they were getting when they selected him. He finished completing eight of 11 passes for 62 yards.
While there wouldn’t be anything wrong with giving veteran Josh McCown a start in Week 1 (and Teddy Bridgewater played well again on Thursday night — better than Darnold, actually — and that complicates matters), it doesn’t seem like there’s a great reason to delay the inevitable.
Sam Darnold’s all-around skills have been impressive
Darnold reportedly had a good week of joint practices against the Redskins (Washington cornerback Josh Norman was impressed) and he carried that over to the game.
One pass in particular will make the Jets’ coaches happy. On a third-and-4, Darnold dropped back. His initial read was to his right. He quickly came off that read when it wasn’t open – something that’s crucial for any quarterback and not something all rookies do easily – and scanned right to left before he found Tre McBride. Then Darnold fired a perfect strike to McBride in tight coverage. McBride made a nice catch for 13 yards and a first down. It was a great play on an important third down.
It was just one play in a preseason game, but it was impressive for a rookie.
Not everything went well for Darnold
Of course, Darnold’s night was far from perfect. The Jets didn’t get into the end zone, which was disappointing. He also threw an interception on fourth down, which is troubling for a player who had turnover issues at USC.
Darnold dropped back on fourth-and-1 in Redskins territory and he never saw safety Deshazor Everett. As new ESPN color analyst Jason Witten pointed out, Everett dropped off his man-to-man coverage of the running back when the back stayed in to block. Darnold never saw that Everett was lurking as an extra defender near the line of scrimmage, Everett tipped the short pass and it was picked off by safety Troy Apke.
It’s not a mistake that was so bad it should change the Jets’ mind on whether Darnold gets the opening-game start. But it was a reminder that Darnold is a rookie.
The Jets have a decision to make soon
The Jets don’t have to make a decision now on their Week 1 starter. Darnold started on Thursday, and it seemed obvious that it was an audition for him to win that job. But the Jets could wait another week and make the decision after the third preseason game (most starters don’t play in the fourth preseason game).
The last time there wasn’t a rookie starting quarterback in Week 1 of an NFL season was 2007. It seems like a good bet that Darnold will keep the streak alive, especially after he looked good again in the Jets’ second preseason game.
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