Jets QBs Darnold, Bridgewater shine

Orlando Sentinel - - PAGE 2 - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. — The New York Jets’ al­ready in­trigu­ing quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion just got a lot more in­ter­est­ing. Thanks to a poised Sam

Darnold. And a sharp and healthy Teddy Bridgewater.

Josh McCown is still No. 1 on the depth chart, but the other two quar­ter­backs made big-time state­ments in the Jets’ 17-0 pre­sea­son-open­ing vic­tory over the At­lanta Fal­cons on Fri­day night.

“We’ll see how the pre­sea­son goes,” coach

Todd Bowles said af­ter the game. “I’ll make my de­ci­sion when it hap­pens. I’m not go­ing to jump to any con­clu­sions af­ter one game. I’m go­ing to take my notes and watch prac­tice and com­pare with the coaches and we’ll come up with a de­ci­sion. It’s a tough de­ci­sion.

“We have three good play­ers and we’re happy to have them.”

Bowles has said that the com­pe­ti­tion could last through the fourth pre­sea­son game, and he didn’t back off that when asked if that were still the case.

“Prob­a­bly,” the coach said in his typ­i­cally un­der­stated fash­ion.

While Bowles isn’t about to start mak­ing any pre­ma­ture procla­ma­tions, there was plenty for the Jets and their fans to get ex­cited about.

McCown played just one se­ries and was re­placed by Bridgewater, who led New York to scores on both of his pos­ses­sions. Then Darnold jogged onto the field at MetLife Sta­dium to an ova­tion be­fit­ting a guy con­sid­ered by many to be the sav­ior of the fran­chise.

The No. 3 over­all pick in the draft showed poise, ac­cu­racy, play­mak­ing abil­ity on the run and vet­eran-like cool in his NFL de­but.

“I thought I played pretty good,” Darnold said. “I think I just put the ball where it needed to be, tried to get it in the hands of our play­mak­ers.”

The for­mer USC star fin­ished 13 of 18 for 96 yards, in­clud­ing a touch­down pass to Charles

John­son dur­ing which he rolled right and zipped the foot­ball into the end zone to his receiver while on the run. That came af­ter Darnold brushed off a drop and an of­fen­sive pass-in­ter­fer­ence penalty — both on John­son — lead­ing to the score.

“Poise. Again, the poise in the pocket,” Bowles said. “Ob­vi­ously, the touch­down throw. The scram­ble was very good use of his feet and ac­cu­racy, but he does that in prac­tice all the time, so I can’t say it im­pressed me be­cause we see it ev­ery day. Just his han­dling of game sit­u­a­tions. There are things he can get bet­ter at, but it’s a good start for him.”

Darnold was quick to point out a neg­a­tive mo­ment, namely when he was sacked by Jonathan Ce­lestin in the fourth quar­ter.

“I feel like I could’ve got­ten that ball out on the shal­low [route] there, but you live and you learn I guess,” he said. “So I’m just go­ing to watch the tape and see re­ally what ex­actly hap­pened on some of the plays, but I thought I did pretty well. I took care of the foot­ball, which was my main pri­or­ity.”

The Jets are giv­ing Darnold ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to win the start­ing job, and the rookie ap­peared well on his way to do­ing so while work­ing with back­ups against the Fal­cons.

New York takes on Wash­ing­ton next Thurs­day, and it re­mains to be seen how Bowles will split the snaps among the quar­ter­backs. The next step for Darnold might be play­ing with the starters.

Bridgewater was also im­pres­sive in his Jets de­but, show­ing flashes of the player who was a Pro Bowl se­lec­tion with the Vikings be­fore a se­vere knee in­jury side­lined him for most of the last two years.

He looked com­fort­able and even took a hard shot dur­ing a play, im­me­di­ately bounc­ing up from the turf.

“It felt good get­ting hit again,” Bridgewater said with a smile. “You never want the quar­ter­back get­ting hit, but for me, it was the fi­nal step of the process. Got hit, got right back up and it just served as a re­minder that the game is still the same.”

Bridgewater capped his first se­ries with a touch­down toss to Isa­iah

Crow­ell, and led the Jets to a field goal on his sec­ond drive.

He fin­ished 7 of 8 for 85 yards, and looked ev­ery bit like a start­ing-cal­iber quar­ter­back — for New York or per­haps another team as po­ten­tial trade bait if Darnold con­tin­ues to progress rapidly and leaves no doubt as to who should be un­der cen­ter when the Jets open the reg­u­lar sea­son at Detroit.

“If you’re a foot­ball fan and you en­joy the sport, it’s fun to be a part of,” McCown said. “And to get a front-row seat and more im­por­tantly to just go out and want to see them ac­com­plish the things that we talk about in our quar­ter­back room on a daily ba­sis is huge and they did that and so we couldn’t be hap­pier. I’m re­ally ex­cited for them and now it’s back to work.”


New York Jets rookie quar­ter­back Sam Darnold fin­ished 13 of 18 for 96 yards with a touch­down pass against At­lanta.

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