Training camp for the Jets transitions to the next phase Monday, when coach Todd Bowles’ team begins preparing for the preseason opener Friday night in Atlanta against the Falcons.
“We’re pretty excited to get started on the preseason,’’ linebacker Darron Lee said after the Green and White practice scrimmage Saturday night at Rutgers. “I’m looking forward to it.’’
With the advent of preseason games, the competition to determine the starting quarterback moves to Step 2. When first-round pick Sam Darnold finally showed up to camp Monday, after missing the first three days because of a contract dispute, Bowles said the rookie was No. 3 on the depth chart, behind incumbent starter Josh McCown and former Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater. How Bowles will divide the playing time among the quarterbacks in Friday’s game is unknown, and will be a major point of questioning this week.
Presumably, the 39-year-old McCown, who enjoyed the best year of his career last season with the Jets, will start, to be followed by Bridgewater and Darnold. But the snaps may not necessarily be divided evenly. Since the Jets know the most about McCown, they may choose to give him fewer reps so they can give longer looks to Bridgewater – who missed essentially all of the last two seasons after a devastating knee injury – and Darnold, who the team has said will get a legitimate chance to win the job.
Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick out of USC, impressed with his performance in the spring at OTAs and minicamp, and has improved steadily after a slow start in his first day at practice.
“He takes a step forward every practice,’’ receiver Jermaine Kearse said after Saturday’s scrimmage. Darnold unofficially was 9-for-11 passing for 89 yards that night, working mostly with the third team. “I saw that from the get-go, when we got into OTAs. He got better each practice, and that’s all you can ask for. So he’s just got to continue to keep his head down and keep trying to learn as much as he can and make the most of the opportunities that he gets.’’
Actually, all of the quarterbacks seemed to get better after Darnold arrived. It was almost as if the two older guys knew they had to lift their play with Darnold pushing them from behind. McCown was 3-for-3 Saturday and threw the only touchdown of the scrimmage, a 52-yarder to Bilal Powell. Bridgewater was 7-for-7, though he was “sacked’’ four times.
Besides the quarterback competition, the Jets -- who have three practices this week before going to Atlanta – will be looking to improve the rest of their game. That includes tightening up their discipline to avoid taking penalties, which has been a concern throughout camp.
“Obviously, there’s some things we need to correct, as far as penalties, especially in the red-zone area,’’ Kearse said. “Those are drive killers.’’
Bowles said Saturday night that the Jets have been asking their training camp officials to call penalties tightly, in an effort to teach the younger players.
“I’m telling them anything close to throw the flag, so we are trying to learn that as we get into the preseason, before we get there… We’re trying to be overcautious and calling them as opposed to not calling them at all,’’ Bowles said. “A lot of are ‘ticky tack,’ but they are getting called nevertheless, and we just got to learn from them.’’
Notes & quotes: S Marcus Maye and WR Terrelle Pryor were held out of Saturday’s practice but will be back at practice Monday, Bowles said… T Kelvin Beachum also didn’t practice Saturday and was spotted wearing a cast on his foot. Bowles said Beachum has a “sore foot’’ and declared him “week-to-week’’… WR Quincy Enunwa (finger) and TE Jordan Leggett (unknown) also did not practice Saturday.