FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sam Darnold, the 20-year-old quarterback whom the Jets made the third overall pick in the NFL Draft, got some reps with the first team offense Tuesday, which was probably the most exciting development on the fourth day of OTAs. But coach Todd Bowles was quick to downplay the significance of that particular bit of news.
“Well, we’ve thrown rookies in [with starters] in the past,’’ Bowles said. “Nothing to read into.’’
Bowles insisted that the first-team reps will even out among all three quarterbacks — Darnold, and veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater – by the end of the week. “Everybody gets the same amount,’’ he said.
Still, Darnold looked good in the second OTA session that was open to the media. He completed 8 of 10 passes in 11-on-11s — mostly short stuff — and connected on a pretty pass to Robbie Anderson during his turn with the starters.
And while it is still only May, more than three months before the start of the 2018 season, Bowles was asked if he thinks the three quarterbacks on the roster represent the best talent he’s had at the position since he became Jets coach.
“I think, from a chemistry standpoint, with the three around each other, it’s the most ‘together,’ ’’ he said. “So, we think we have three good quarterbacks that we can play with and just look and see how much better they can get going forward.’’
Chemistry among the quarterbacks, Bowles said, is important because each sees something different when he is on the field in given situations, and if they share their insights with each other, it benefits them all.
“They can feed off each other, and take each other’s advice, (and) I think it can’t help but catapult the chemistry to a better level and help those guys play better,’’ he said.
The chemistry among the quarterbacks is different than in previous years. Geno Smith was unhappy when he lost his starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the past two seasons featured two young quarterbacks in Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg who were drafted in successive years and were ostensibly competing directly with each other to be the quarterback of the future.
While the current three quarterbacks certainly are competing to be the starter in Week 1, each is in a different stage of his career — and has different things to prove — which probably makes it easier for them to coexist. McCown is 38, coming off a great season with the Jets last year, and clearly near the end of his NFL career. Bridgewater, 25, missed nearly all of the last two seasons after suffering a grisly injury to his left knee. Darnold is the quarterback of the future, who naturally will be doing all he can to try and speed up his timetable.
According to Bowles, all three are looking just fine. Bridgewater seems to be moving around well on his repaired knee, and Darnold is adjusting to the playbook.
“He’s been progressing,’’ Bowles said of Darnold. “Obviously, [as we are] installing the offense and putting everything in on defense, he’s seeing things for the first time, both sides of the ball. As the days go by, he’s getting more comfortable, so he’s got to keep working at it and get better.’’
And, Bowles said, Darnold is learning as much as he can from the two older guys.
“He’s kind of getting preseason reps right now. Once he gets the offense down, I think it’s big for him to take the tips that they’re giving him, and see the things that they’re doing, going forward, so when he gets to training camp, he doesn’t have to think as much and he can go full speed ahead.’’