Darnold solid in spotlight during Jets scrimmage at Rutgers
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold got plenty of work in the spotlight — and under the lights — in the New York Jets’ annual scrimmage.
And the rookie quarterback didn’t disappoint.
Darnold got the bulk of the snaps in team drills at Rutgers’ High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday night, practicing in front of the general public for the first time. He was 9 of 11 for 89 yards during five possessions, showing off his arm strength and also nifty playmaking ability with his legs. He fumbled and took three “sacks,” but it was an overall positive performance for the No. 3 overall draft pick.
“He got a lot work with the third group,” coach Todd Bowles said. “That was our plan to play a lot of the young guys tonight. That was part of catching him up to speed. So, we’ll look at the film and we’ll see what happened, but he’s grasping the offense pretty well and we’ll go from there.”
Darnold sat out the first three training camp practice because of a contract impasse before signing a four-year, $30.25 million deal Monday.
The former USC star is competing with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job and was a bit behind because of the early absences. But Darnold is making up for the lost time with each day.
“It’s only been barely a week for him,” Bowles said. “He’s getting better every day.”
On a third-and-2 on one possession, Darnold took off as the defense closed in on him and scrambled for 9 yards — punctuated by a nice slide.
“Some of the things he did in college as well — extending plays,” Bowles said. “And it’s good to have good feet in this league as well as an arm.”
Darnold also is impressing his teammates, including wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who could end up on the receiving end of lots of the young quarterback’s passes at some point this season.
“He’s an athletic guy,” Kearse said. “He’s just as accurate on the run as he is in the pocket, so that’s something he’ll utilize to his advantage and it’ll help to extend plays. When there’s a situation where he gets forced out of the pocket, it allows us to find areas to get open. He keeps his eyes down the field, so that’s a good thing for us.”
Darnold is still behind McCown and Bridgewater on the depth chart, but will be given every opportunity to claim the No. 1 spot by the time the Jets open the regular season at Detroit on Sept. 10.
“He’s just got to keep his head down,” Kearse said, “and keep try to learn as much as can and make the most of the opportunities that he gets.”
McCown went 3 of 3 for 69 yards and a touchdown to Bilal Powell, who took a short pass and took it 52 yards for a touchdown. It appeared that Brandon Copeland might have “sacked” McCown — there’s no contact on quarterbacks in practices — but the refs ruled the play a TD.
Bridgewater was 7 of 7 for 63 yards with no TDs or interceptions, but took four “sacks.”
Darnold wasn’t the only rookie to have a good night on the field. Running back Trenton Cannon, the team’s sixth-round pick out of Virginia State, continued a strong camp with runs of 18 and 14 yards while flashing terrific speed. Tight end Chris Herndon, a fourth-rounder out of Miami, had four catches and could end up being the starter at the position.
Early in team drills, the Jets provided a cool moment for 6-year-old Gio Toribio. The Ossining, New York, native is cancer-free after being diagnosed with Stage 3 anaplastic large cell lymphoma two years ago. Toribio was brought onto the field, took the football from McCown — with the crowd cheering “Gio! Gio!” — and the Jets escorted him 50 yards all the way to the end zone before getting high-fives from the players. Linebacker Darron Lee had invited Toribio and his family to attend the practice after previously meeting them.
Bowles said LT Kelvin Beachum is “week to week” with what the coach called “a sore foot.” Beachum was in a walking boot on the sideline. He was replaced on the first-team offense by Ben Ijalana. ... Other players to not practice included: WR Quincy Enunwa, WR Terrelle Pryor, S Marcus Maye, NT Steve McLendon, TE Jordan Leggett, WR Charone Peake, OL Austin Golson, DL Deon Simon, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, S Kacy Rodgers II, CB Jeremy Clark and CB Parry Nickerson.
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The Jets had more than 60 former players in attendance, including Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons, Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker and Wayne Chrebet.