Sam Darnold has the hype. Josh McCown has the experience.
But Teddy Bridgewater may be the best man for the job.
Receiving his first extended NFL action since a devastating knee injury that kept Bridgewater from playing the past two seasons, the former Pro Bowler again looked like one of the league’s best young quarterbacks, completing 7-of-8 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown in the Jets’ 17-0 win over the Falcons on Friday night at MetLife Stadium.
“I felt great. It was an awesome feeling. I was at peace out there,” Bridgewater said. “I was just so excited. I was glad to be out there with the guys, looking at [their] eyes, and feeding off [their] energy.”
Despite only attempting two passes in the past two seasons, the 25-year-old was sharp from the start, and showcased good mobility, which offered no hint of his career-altering injury.
Entering the game for the team’s second offensive series, Bridgewater took over at Atlanta’s 47-yard line, and led the Jets down the field, before connecting with Isaiah Crowell on a third-down underneath crossing route for a 16-yard touchdown. It was Bridgewater’s first touchdown pass since a preseason game on Aug. 28, 2016, days before his knee injury.
For Bridgewater, the biggest moment of the night came earlier in the drive, when he completed an 8-yard pass to Robby Anderson on his first passing attempt, while absorbing a big hit from Takk McKinley.
“I was actually anxious to get hit, if anything, because I wanted to get hit,” Bridgewater said. “It felt good getting hit again. For me, it was like the final step of the process. I got hit and got right back up, and it served as a reminder that the game’s still the same.”
Bridgewater, a 2014 first-round draft pick who made the Pro Bowl in his second season, looked even better in his second series, playing behind the Jets’ second-string offensive line.
Starting at their own 12-yard line, Bridgewater found Charles Johnson for 23 yards off a play-action pass and two snaps later hit Neal Sterling for 21 yards. The 10-play, 61-yard drive produced another three points, and Bridgewater’s night was done.
He had given himself a chance to steal the starting job. He had increased the likelihood he could be traded. He had proven he still could play.
Once Bridgewater returned to the field, he never doubted success would, too.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Bridgewater said. “I trusted everything that took place prior to tonight, whether it was the sessions in the training room … or in the film room … and when that moment finally presents itself, you’re ready for it. Tonight, I was ready.”
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