With Sam Darnold, fu­ture could be now for Jets

The Record (Troy, NY) - - SPORTS - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

FLORHAMPARK, N.J. » Even Broad­way Joe thinks the New York Jets might fi­nally have their next fran­chise quar­ter­back.

Joe Na­math met Sam Darnold on the field at MetLife Sta­dium be­fore the team’s third pre­sea­son game and it pro­vided quite the snap­shot.

Past meets fu­ture — and, maybe, the pre­sent.

“I’ve seen Sam per­form tonight,” Na­math said dur­ing the TV broad­cast, “bet­ter than I’ve seen any rook­ies I can re­mem­ber.”

That’s high praise from the only man to quar­ter­back the Jets to a Su­per Bowl vic­tory.

And that came 50 sea­sons ago. The stun­ning win over the Colts will be cel­e­brated by the team and its fans this year. It’s also a bru­tal re­minder of how long it has been since the Jets were on top of the foot­ball world.

Darnold, they hope, can some­day end that drought.

“That’s the goal for every­one,” Darnold said a few weeks af­ter be­ing drafted No. 3 over­all. “Any­thing short of that is a fail­ure and we’re aware of that. Every­one is aware of that. What­ever my role is, I’m go­ing to star in that role to work us to­ward that Su­per Bowl.”

The for­mer USC star had a solid sum­mer and im­pressed the coach­ing staff with his abil­ity to quickly di­gest the play­book along with his vet­eran-like pres­ence and ap­proach.

Darnold was given ev­ery

chance to win the com­pe­ti­tion that in­cluded Josh McCown and Teddy Bridge­wa­ter, and he didn’t dis­ap­point.

“He’s able to take the class­room knowl­edge and all the stuff he’s stud­ied in the class­room and take it right to the field and ex­e­cute it,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jeremy Bates said. “We’re throw­ing a lot of foot­ball at him and he’s been able to han­dle it.”

Darnold could be­come the 31st quar­ter­back to start a game for the Jets since Na­math’s last ap­pear­ance for the fran­chise in 1976. That’s a lot of search­ing and a long time wait­ing.

There’s big- time hope that Darnold is the an­swer, and that has the Jets and their fans op­ti­mistic about this sea­son — and the fu­ture.

“He did every­thing we’ve asked him to do,” coach Todd Bowles said.

Here are some other things to know as the Jets en­ter the reg­u­lar sea­son:

WHOSE LINE IS IT?

While all eyes have been on the quar­ter­backs, the of­fen­sive line will be a ma­jor fo­cus — no mat­ter who’s call­ing the plays in the hud­dle.

The Jets signed cen­ter Spencer Long, who’s an up­grade over Wes­ley John­son, but the rest of the line is back. And, it re­mains to be seen if that’s a good thing.

In­con­sis­tency and in­juries made for a shaky sea­son, and depth this year could be an is­sue. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum dealt with an an­kle in­jury most of the sum­mer, and right guard Brian Win­ters was in and out of the lineup with sore­ness.

“They’ve got to work to­gether,” Bowles said of the line. “They have to be healthy, ob­vi­ously, but I feel good about them when they are healthy.” SEARCH CON­TIN­UES One of the pri­or­i­ties for the Jets dur­ing the off­sea­son was to find a pass-rush­ing pres­ence, par­tic­u­larly at out­side linebacker.

No one emerged dur­ing train­ing camp, and that could be some­thing gen­eral man­ager Mike Maccagnan tries to ad­dress as the sea­son goes along.

JULIO CORTEZ — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New York Jets quar­ter­back Sam Darnold throws a pass against the New York Gi­ants dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter of an NFL pre­sea­son foot­ball game Fri­day in East Ruther­ford, N.J.

JULIO CORTEZ — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles talks to re­porters dur­ing NFL foot­ball train­ing camp, Wed­nes­day in Florham Park, N.J.

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