The cliche that quarterbacks need to sit and learn is outdated. NFL teams don’t buy that anymore and there’s no evidence it works in this era. Still, less than a month before the regular-season opener, we have five first-round rookie quarterbacks and none of them are a sure thing to start Week 1.
The one player who looks like the best bet to continue that league-wide streak of rookie quarterbacks starting the regular season is New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold tries to take another big step toward a Week 1 start as he and his Jets face the Washington Redskins on the Yahoo Sports mobile app (IOS and Android) Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
Darnold looked good in the Jets’ first preseason game and he impressed one prominent Redskins defender in joint practices this week. Darnold got more reps with the starting offense in practice this week, a sign that he’s closing in on being named the starter. Whether he can get there by the start of the season will probably be determined by the Jets’ next two preseason games.
Josh Norman was very impressed with Sam Darnold
Perhaps the most eye-opening praise for Darnold, the third pick of this year’s draft, came from an opponent. Redskins cornerback Josh Norman got to play against Darnold in joint practices this week, and he admittedly wasn’t impressed with Darnold before seeing him in person. He came away with a much different impression after competing against him.
“Someone asked me about him the other day and I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever; he’s just a guy,'” Norman told Kimberley Martin of the Washington Post, via Pro Football Talk. “Then you go out here and see him making these throws and you’re like, all right. That’s not so much a college-level throw. He’s putting them on the money.
“It’s like, dang. You get rookies in here and you try to mess them with a little bit and bait them a little bit into thinking they’re throwing a route, and you can make a play, and he’s not having it. It’s so crazy to see that at an early age. Dak [Prescott] has that; Carson [Wentz] has that. So it’s like, man, they must come in here not wanting to screw it up, and he’s so far impressed me, and I didn’t want him to. I wanted to break all rookies. He’s been doing a great job.”
That’s about as complimentary as a veteran cornerback will ever be about a rookie quarterback on another team.
Darnold is off to a nice preseason start
Darnold looked advanced in his first preseason snaps last week. He didn’t take many chances downfield, but he ran the offense well. He did not look like a rookie in his first NFL action.
“It was fun man. It felt good to finally play football again,” Darnold said, according to the Jets’ site. “We’ve been playing for a few weeks now, but it felt good to hit someone else and actually be hit as quarterback. No red jersey, so it was awesome to be able to get back there. I got hit once, but I let the ball go. It was just awesome to feel that rush of playing football again and also in front of the fans. It was amazing.”
Darnold was 13-of-18 for 96 yards and a touchdown last week. If he replicates that in the Jets’ second preseason game, it might cause the Jets to rethink their depth chart.
Darnold still has hurdles before being named starter
The Jets have a veteran coming off a nice season in Josh McCown and a resurgent Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. Everyone knows Darnold will be the Jets’ starter at some point, but it’s not like he has a clear path to the job. Darnold will need to continue to progress, but all the signs are positive.
In Cleveland, the Browns seem set on starting Tyrod Taylor over top pick Baker Mayfield. Josh Allen could end up starting for the Buffalo Bills, but he’s not there yet and might not get there by Week 1. Josh Rosen would have to beat out Sam Bradford for the Arizona Cardinals’ starting spot, and thanks to poor play around him last week, he didn’t make up much ground. Lamar Jackson has little shot to supplant Joe Flacco as the Baltimore Ravens starter by Week 1.
If we’re going to have a rookie starting quarterback in Week 1 for the 11th straight season, Darnold is probably the best option. He’ll need another good preseason performance or two to keep the streak alive.
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