The tougher it is for Sam Darnold, the better it is for the Jets.
The No. 3 pick is presumably the quarterback the team’s decision-makers hope wins the starting job this preseason, but there are factors working against him: a brief training camp holdout, a general manager and coach who have yet to make the playoffs in three seasons and, perhaps most importantly, two other quarterbacks who are far from pushovers.
“The best thing about having talented quarterbacks is the more competition you have at a position the better that person is going to be who comes out to win the job,” former Jets quarterback and SNY analyst Ray Lucas said.
“The problem is, of course, that when you have three quarterbacks who want to start there are only so many snaps in the game, so many snaps in practice. When you do have your shot the light has to be on, you have to be ready at all times no matter what you get. You had two quarterbacks who have been great at points in their careers. [Josh] McCown is a journeyman, but if you want a guy who eats, sleeps and s–ts football, it’s Josh McCown. He embodies what a Jets player really should be.
“[Teddy] Bridgewater was very happy in Minnesota, very talented the first two years. As a Jets fan, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, bring him over here’ when they signed him.”
Darnold will get his first crack at taking that starting job on Friday night when the Jets open their preseason against the Falcons at MetLife Stadium. He and Bridgewater, who is two years removed from a catastrophic knee injury, are likely to see the majority of snaps, with the Jets knowing what they have in last year’s starter, McCown.
“[Darnold] has to get acclimated to the speed of the game, it’s a lot different than it was in college,” Lucas said. “The one thing he has to do is trust his eye and understand the defense he sees under center is not the one they’ll be playing after the snap. I am interested to see how Darnold does reading the defense, being a field general. I would love to be in the huddle to see what his quarterback presence is inside the huddle.”
Lucas said he believes the Jets lucked out when the Browns “screwed up” by taking Baker Mayfield No. 1 and having Darnold, 21, fall to them after the Giants picked Saquon Barkley. It’s a franchise in need of a break. Coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan are in their fourth year and went from 10 wins their first season together to 10 total the past two.
Last season was largely viewed as one the Jets had to swallow and be bad enough to get a quarterback of Darnold’s stature. A 5-11 campaign could even be considered an overachievement, but it would be difficult for the fan base and ownership to abide another non-competitive season after significant spending in free agency.
“Very high,” Lucas said of his expectations. “With all the additions (Trumaine Johnson, Avery Williamson, Isaiah Crowell, Bridgewater) that you have, Quincy Enunwa coming back, Robby Anderson had a great year last year, Jamal Adams and his partner in crime in the secondary (Marcus Maye)… The Jets are on the rise. I don’t think people in that organization feel we are still rebuilding.”
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