LANDOVER, Md. — Nothing that happened here Thursday night will change the Jets’ conviction that they have a keeper in Sam Darnold, but the quarterback of the near future reminded everyone this sort of thing is a process.
Darnold was not terrible in his second preseason outing and first start, a 15-13 loss to the Redskins at FedEx Field. But neither was Darnold as good as he looked against backups in the preseason opener against the Falcons.
The rookie finished his one half of work — which covered only three possessions — 8-for-11 for 62 yards and an interception, for a passer rating of 48.3. He was sacked twice.
Teddy Bridgewater led two late scoring drives after replacing Darnold, but the Redskins won it on a 40-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins as time expired.
“I thought I played good,” Darnold said, noting his improved management of the play clock. But he acknowledged he remains a work in progress after playing less than two full seasons both in college and high school.
“Every single game I play is huge,” he said. “That’s what I’m most excited about, is to see how much I’m going to be able to grow and get better and build chemistry with the guys in the locker room. I think we have the potential to do really good things.”
It remains to be seen whether he will be the starter come opening night in Detroit Sept. 10, especially after Bridgewater again showed that the left knee that cost him nearly two full seasons is sound.
He was 10-for-15 for 127 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the second half.
Coach Todd Bowles said he thought both quarterbacks played well and offered no hints about the competition to start. The other contender is Josh McCown, who did not play Thursday.
“I thought they were gritty in some adverse situations, but they hung in there tough and played well,” he said.
Darnold’s first drive was a three-and-out, thanks to heavy pressure from the Redskins against the Jets’ banged-up offensive line. Bowles said watching his quarterbacks face the heat is a good thing at this stage.
“It’s the best time to evaluate them,” he said. “It’s easy to throw when you don’t have any pressure and it’s not adversity.”
Darnold's best drive was his second. It included two third-and-4 conversions to Tre McBride.
But the Jets settled for a 36-yard field goal by Taylor Bertolet that made it 6-3 after Darnold absorbed another third-down sack. Could he have gotten rid of the ball more quickly to avoid that?
Perhaps, but he said he made the smart move. “I pride myself on hanging in there and just taking that sack but continuing to be in field goal range, just not doing anything dumb with the football,” he said.
Darnold’s third and final possession ended on a fourth-and-1 play from the Washington 20. The Jets went for it, and Darnold forced a throw to a heavily guarded Jermaine Kearse. The ball was tipped by safety Deshazor Everett and picked off by Troy Apke.
Because it was fourth down, there was little risk involved. “It is a turnover, but it’s not the worst thing that could have happened,” Darnold said.
Bowles blamed a poor play call by the coaches.
The Redskins led 9-3 at halftime and 12-3 when the Jets finally broke through with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter. Charone Peake made a nice leaping TD catch of a 13-yard pass from Bridgewater to make it 12-10.
Bridgewater later led a drive to Bertolet’s go-ahead, 21-yard field goal with 1:52 left. The Redskins promptly marched downfield for the game-winner.
Notes & quotes: There were a total of 24 Jets who did not play. WRs Terrelle Pryor and Quincy Enunwa and S Marcus Maye were dressed during warmups but sat out.