Adam Gase apparently can bring the best out of Sam Darnold.
The Jets’ second-year quarterback threw a perfect game in Thursday’s preseason opener at MetLife Stadium. Actually, it was only a perfect series, because that’s all Darnold played in the Jets’ 31-22 loss. But he carved up the Giants’ defense, leading the Jets on a seven-play touchdown drive.
Darnold completed 4 of 5 passes for 68 yards and a score on the game’s first drive. His passer rating was a perfect 158.3.
This was Gase’s first game as the Jets’ coach. He was brought in to help develop Darnold into a franchise quarterback, make the offense explosive and lead the Jets back to the playoffs.
There’s a long way to go, but the first-team offense — with Le’Veon Bell a healthy scratch, watching from the sideline — had no trouble moving the ball against the Giants.
“It was fun out there for that first drive,” Darnold said. “Hopefully it gave Jets fans a little taste of what this season is going to be like.”
It almost was a very ugly and imperfect start for Gase and Darnold, whose first pass nearly was picked off by safety Jabril Peppers. On the very next play, Darnold showed some of the traits that have the Jets excited about the future.
Darnold was on the move and fired a pass to second-year tight end Chris Herndon, who was wide open. The play went for 32 yards. Herndon is a big part of the Jets’ offense and will be missed while he serves a four-game suspension to start the regular season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
One play later, Darnold connected on a 28-yard catch-and-run with receiver Jamison Crowder, who also was wide open.
Later, Darnold and Crowder connected for a 3-yard touchdown. Crowder, a slot receiver, could be very busy in Gase’s system.
Darnold’s night was over. All of the starting skill-position players were done. (The Jets will look much different when they have Bell. Ty Montgomery started and had 12 yards on three touches.)
Darnold’s mobility and ability to keep plays alive, along with his improved arm strength, have been a major topic during training camp, and it was an impressive debut for the Darnold-Gase pairing. Gase has made no secret of the fact that he sees greatness in Darnold’s future, and he’s excited to work with him.
“I loved the tempo they played with,” Gase said. “Sam did a good job extending plays on third down. Guys were in the right spot. Communication was good. I thought the pocket was good. It was fun calling it.”
Getting the boot?
Jets general manager Joe Douglas might have to call around to get another kicker in camp. Chandler Catanzaro has missed numerous field goals in practice, and it carried over to the preseason as he failed to convert two extra-point attempts. He missed a 35-yarder after the opening-drive TD, as a delay-of-game penalty resulted in the PAT being five yards longer. Catanzaro’s 30-yard try went wide left after the second TD. He partially redeemed himself with a 34-yard field goal later in the second quarter.
Jets owner Woody Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, attended the game. Johnson was on the sideline beforehand wearing his trademark white Jets hat, talking with Gase, Douglas and others. Christopher Johnson, his brother and the chairman and CEO, serves as the acting owner.
Rookie lineman Quinnen Williams started and finished with one tackle. He didn’t play after the first quarter . . . Leonard Williams, who missed the last couple of practices with a hip issue, didn’t play. Neither did Bilal Powell, Steve McLendon and Ryan Kalil . . . Quincy Enunwa, who left Tuesday’s practice with a groin issue, played the first series with the first-team offense . . . Right guard Brian Winters was ruled out after the first series with a shoulder injury . . . The game was delayed 59 minutes because of lightning. As a result of the delay, halftime was only five minutes instead of 15.