Posted on August 20, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The New York Jets began the preseason with one of the most intriguing quarterback competitions in the NFL. After two preseason games, there still isn’t much clarity. However, based on recent comments from Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, the team may be leaning toward giving rookie Sam Darnold the job. Darnold would be a surprise winner in the competition against veteran Josh McCown and a resurgent Teddy Bridgewater.
Maccagnan made his first public comments about the quarterback competition on Tuesday. Those comments were overwhelmingly complimentary of Darnold. Obviously, Jets head coach Todd Bowles will make the ultimate decision on who starts at quarterback. But hearing Maccagnan speak so highly of Darnold does indicate the Jets could give the rookie the start Week 1.
“Of all the young quarterbacks I’ve been around, I’ve been exceptionally impressed by Sam,” Maccagnan said, adding that Darnold was “unflappable” and that he’s been “exceptionally impressed” by the former USC quarterback.
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“Every day he goes out there, he gets a little better,” Maccagnan said of Darnold. “He literally just turned 21. He’s a very young person. But it’s all the stuff we knew about him coming out of college. All the stuff people thought about him there. His personality, his work ethic, the way he handles pressure.”
Through two preseason games, Darnold is 21 for 29 for 158 yards with one touchdown throw and one interception. Bridgewater, to be fair, has been a little more impressive, at least on paper. He’s averaging 9.2 yards per attempt compared to Darnold’s 5.4 yards per attempt. Bridgewater’s completion percentage is slightly higher as well. McCown has barely played, although the Jets know what he brings to the table after he was their starter last season.
Maccagnan also commented Tuesday that the team could be willing to trade one of their three quarterbacks before the start of the season. Darnold, obviously, wouldn’t be the quarterback to be moved. McCown, at age 39, doesn’t hold much value. The Jets might also want his veteran presence to help mentor Darnold. That leaves Bridgewater, who has looked promising after two seasons lost to a serious knee injury.
“We feel fortunate to have three quarterbacks we really like quite a bit,” said Maccagnan said. “Again, we can very easily keep three quarterbacks and if something were to arise, we can go with two if that’s the case.”
Those comments indicate that the Jets would trade Bridgewater if they get a serious offer for him. At this point, Bridgewater may be the best option for the Jets. However, Darnold has done enough to make the Jets consider trader offers for Bridgewater. If there’s an injury late in the preseason, Bridgewater would likely be one of the first quarterbacks considered by a team suddenly in the market for one.
Obviously, nothing is set in stone with two preseason games left. But the Jets front office appears to be growing more comfortable with the idea of Darnold beginning the season as the starting quarterback. At this point, Darnold is a legitimate threat to be out Bridgewater for the starting job, even if the Jets don’t trade him. If there’s one rookie quarterback who looks poised to start Week 1, it could be Darnold.