Josh McCown believes Sam Darnold is ready to be the Jets’ starting quarterback.
That statement is a testament to not only Darnold’s maturity and skills but to McCown’s professionalism.
The 16-year veteran, who was the Jets’ starting quarterback last year, has been nothing but supportive of Darnold. McCown has been in the rookie’s ear, giving him advice and helping him throughout his first NFL training camp and preseason.
Their time together during OTAs and training camp, and seeing how Darnold has prepared, has McCown believing the rookie is ready.
“I think [it’s] the work ethic we put in that room, the time and the diligence he’s had on a daily basis to commit himself to getting better,” McCown said after the Jets’ 10-9 preseason loss to the Eagles on Thursday night. “He works so hard at it and he just spends the extra time. He’s able to take what we’ve done, the extra work we put in, and it manifests itself on the field. He’s done that very early. All that time will be well served.
“I know whatever decision is made, it will be made in the best interest of the team, and if either one of our numbers are called, we’ll be ready to go. I have no doubt if it goes that way, Sam will be ready.”
The only thing left is for coach Todd Bowles to officially name Darnold the starter for the Sept. 10 opener at Detroit.
Bowles said he will talk to both quarterbacks and the coaches before he makes his decision and announces it. Everything, however, is trending in Darnold’s direction.
The Jets are off until Monday, but this will be a busy weekend for Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan.
They have to make cuts by 4 p.m. Saturday to get the roster to 53 players, and they began by cutting 18 players Friday to get to 71. There aren’t expected to be any surprises, as many of the positions are pretty set, but the Jets will look to add players through waivers — they are sixth in the claim order — or trades.
It’s hardly a secret that they need an edge rusher. The name on everyone’s lips is Khalil Mack, who remains away from the Raiders as negotiations for a new contract have halted.
“You’re always looking all year, every year,” Bowles said. “But it’s more Mike’s department. We’ll see what’s available to him or if he comes down asking about somebody, we’ll discuss it. If not, we’ll just keep status quo.”
When Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald agreed to a record six-year, $135-million deal Friday, it put the Raiders on the clock to make a move with Mack. If they can’t sign him, the Jets have the assets to make a deal and the salary-cap room going forward to give Mack a huge contract.
The Jets already have made one significant trade this week, sending quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a sixth-round pick to the Saints for a third-rounder. Many see that as a precursor to a bigger deal. With a first-rounder and two third-rounders next year, Maccagnan has some nice trade chips.
The Raiders reportedly are seeking at least two first-round picks for Mack. That’s a hefty price that could make the Jets balk. But Mack, a former Defensive Player of the Year, is the kind of game-changer the Jets and many teams need.
The Jets also would like to add some quality help and depth to their offensive line, one of their weakest links. They could grab someone off waivers Sunday if they believe he can help. Other than a pass rusher, a priority for the Jets has to be making sure Darnold has good protection.
“Obviously, we have to wait to see what’s out there,” Bowles said of potential waiver claims. “We’re not just going to bring in anybody, but if there’s someone who interests us and we think can help upgrade our roster, we’ll definitely try and bring them in.”
Notes & quotes: The Jets cut 18 players Friday, putting their roster at 71. They waived quarterback John Wolford, running back George Atkinson, fullback Dimitri Flowers, wide receiver Charles Johnson, offensive linemen Gino Gradkowski, Alex Balducci, Antonio Garcia, Darius James and Dakoda Shepley, defensive linemen Kendall Reyes, Xavier Cooper and Mych Thomas, linebackers David Bass, Kevin Minter and Obum Gwacham, cornerbacks Xavier Coleman and Terrell Sinkfield, and safety Kacy Rodgers II, whose father is the Jets’ defensive coordinator.