With little fanfare, Adam Gase announced Friday morning that Sam Darnold will return as the Jets' starting quarterback in Sunday’s home game against Miami, barring any setbacks.
"Yeah," Gase said when asked during a Zoom call Friday if Darnold will start after missing two weeks with a sprained AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder. "Yup. Unless something changes [Friday], which I don’t anticipate, everything looks good to go."
Darnold was in good spirits after practicing the last couple of days.
"Yeah, feeling really good again, continuing to take it day-by-day at this point, but I felt really good today and yesterday," he said. "The doctors are saying I will be fine, so I’m trusting what they say and going out there and I am going to continue to do what I do and play my game."
Gase recently has noticed improvements in Darnold’s ability to make a variety of passes.
"It’s been a good week for Sam," he said. "The way he’s throwing the football right now, you can tell there’s a big difference as far as the control, the velocity, his change of pace on throws — it just looks a lot different than last time he tried making a run at playing in a game, so feeling good about that.
"Excited to see these [skill] guys play this game — [the] three [starting] receivers, the way [tight end Chris] Herndon is playing; get Josh [Adams] and Ty [Johnson] going with Frank [Gore]. We’re fired up to see what we can do on Sunday."
Gase also is fired up to see what the Jets might have looked like earlier this season if not for injuries to most of his top skill players.
"I think these guys all just want to see maybe what it could have been from the beginning of the year," he said. "Getting a lot of these young guys in there and see what kind of chemistry and obviously [the] more we practice together and the more we play in games together, the better it is for those guys."
Darnold, who has completed 58.6% of his passes for 1,045 yards, three touchdowns, six interceptions and a 65.9 quarterback rating, is looking forward to his first start with all three starting wide receivers healthy. He has not played a game in which Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims all were available. In the two games Darnold missed, Joe Flacco had the services of all three, and he threw five touchdown passes.
"Obviously, those guys have been producing the last couple weeks," Darnold said, "so it is going to be nice playing with those guys and getting to play with them in a game."
Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains noticed how tough it was for Darnold to be on the sideline the past two games.
"It’s been a hard couple of weeks for Sam not to be able to play," he said. "He’s been grinding through doing everything he could to get ready for this game. We’re definitely excited to have him back with those three guys, playing together for the first time."
It's been a tough season for the 0-10 Jets, but Gase said his players are giving their best effort daily.
"When you go to practice, the energy is there," he said. "We’re trying to find ways to get better. Guys are trying to use the time, whether it be a walk-through or practice or individual [drills] or whatever we’re doing, they’re out there trying to find ways to get better."
Gase gave himself a second to think about what might have been this season if his team hadn’t been hit so hard by injuries, especially when it comes to developing chemistry during practices.
"Just to watch those guys practice, I wish it was more," he said. "We’re kind of in that part of the season where you’re whittling back on reps and things like that because there hasn’t been too many times when we’ve been completely healthy like this, where everyone has practiced together.
"Every week we can go out and practice and every chance we get to play a game, and all these guys are playing together, that’s critical for us."