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Sam Darnold's shoulder injury has opened the door for veteran Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco of the Jets throws a pass

Joe Flacco of the Jets throws a pass in the second half against the Patriots at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 9 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Joe Flacco didn’t know what to expect when he joined the Jets. He only knew he was brought in to back up and help mentor Sam Darnold.

A shoulder injury for Darnold has opened the door for Flacco to show he can still be more than a serviceable NFL quarterback.

"He’s still got it," Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.

There was some question about that after Flacco’s rough 2019 in Denver when he suffered a neck injury that required surgery for him to continue playing. The Jets knew Flacco wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season, but they signed the 35-year-old former Super Bowl MVP.

At the time, Flacco said he wanted to show he could still be a starter in the NFL. He wasn’t going to play much, if at all, if Darnold didn’t get hurt. The Jets were Darnold’s team. They were riding with him, developing him and asking Flacco to help in the process.

Flacco has ended up playing more than anyone anticipated. He will start his second straight game and fourth overall on Sunday when the Jets go for their first win of the season against the Chargers.

"You hope in some way that you get a chance to prove that you can still do it," Flacco said. "Not only performance wise, but health wise, you want the chance. I really just kind of took it as just be ready, be mentally ready most importantly because you never know what's going to happen."

Flacco isn’t lighting the world on fire. But in a season in which the Jets have been nothing short of embarrassing, Flacco has been a positive story.

He has performed better than Darnold. In the Jets’ last game, Flacco looked a little like the player that enjoyed playoff success with Baltimore.

Flacco threw three touchdown passes in the first half in the Jets’ last-second loss to New England. He had a costly fourth-quarter interception. But the Jets believe Flacco will continue to build off that performance because he’s more comfortable in the offense.

"There was a couple of throws that were special," Adam Gase said. "Every game that he plays, it’s more experience under his belt in this system. I expect Joe to find ways to get better every week. I’m excited to see him play this week."

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said, "I do think this guy is a starter in this league, and we’re very fortunate to have the quarterback situation we have right now. The guy’s a natural thrower of the football. He throws with anticipation. He throws with touch. He’s just an impressive pro."

The Jets are committed to playing the young guys. But Gase said that he doesn’t feel comfortable throwing rookie quarterback James Morgan into a game since he hasn’t even had the experience of playing in a preseason game.

There’s a chance that Darnold returns next week against Miami. Until he does, Flacco will continue to get the opportunity to play and show he can still play at a high level.

"I'm definitely grateful for the chance to play a little bit," Flacco said. "Obviously, you never want to see your teammates go down so that part of it's not the best.

"But I've never been in this position coming into the season, knowing that I wasn't going to be the starter. So, I really just tried to approach it with an open mind, help the quarterback out, help Sam out as much as I can, but at the same time continue to work hard and stay on top of things."

New York Sports