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Rookie Sam Darnold picking up subtleties in a hurry

If No. 3 overall pick impresses Bowles in preseason games, he could start season opener.

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold passes during training camp

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold passes during training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on Thursday. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Sam Darnold dropped back during a red-zone drill, looked off his first read and then his second before finding fellow rookie Trenton Cannon all alone in the right corner for the touchdown. Darnold isn’t sure he would have made that play last week, but he’s already looking and feeling more comfortable as he begins his second week of training camp.

“It’s awesome to be able to kind of find my groove in the offense and be able to feel comfortable and know exactly when I need to get rid of the ball,” Darnold said after Monday’s practice. “It was awesome to feel that pocket around me and be able to find Trent there late as really my fourth or fifth option.”

Darnold knows there’s plenty of room to improve. But after missing the first three days of camp as his contract was being worked out, Darnold believes he’s caught up. He's looking forward to continuing his growth and development – as are the Jets.

Todd Bowles gave Darnold more than half of the offensive reps during Monday’s practice – 55, including 16 with the starting unit. Teddy Bridgewater was in on 32 reps and incumbent starter Josh McCown 10. That makes sense, because Darnold needs the most work and is the future of the franchise.

The No. 3 overall pick out of USC made some mistakes, but he was 15-for-27 with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The offense committed seven penalties when Darnold was behind center, but Bowles said they weren’t his fault.

“Those had nothing to do with Sam,” Bowles said. “Those were just other people making bonehead decisions at the wrong time.”

Bowles said he would have to watch the tape before rating Darnold’s performance. But his teammates remain impressed with him.

“Sam is going to be just fine,” Bridgewater said. “He’s a cool guy. He seems like a guy who you can’t break. That’s what you want as a quarterback. He’s even-keeled. I just watch him. He makes throws. It’s like, ‘Man, this guy is the real deal.’ ”

Everyone will find out soon enough.

As of now, the quarterback depth chart is McCown one, Bridgewater two and Darnold three. But it’s an open competition. Bowles wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Darnold jumping over the veterans, but he's participated in only five practices and no games. So it’s too soon to anoint Darnold as anything.

Bowles said he probably would wait until after the preseason before naming his Week 1 starter against the Lions. The Jets open their four-game preseason schedule Friday against the Falcons.

“We've got to play the preseason games,” Bowles said. “I’m not into the hypotheticals and nothing that hasn’t happened yet. We’re going to let him play, and after the fourth preseason game, sometime that week I’ll make my decision and go from there.”

McCown, in his 16th season, wants to hold on to his starting job. Bridgewater wants to play – and start again – after a knee injury sidelined him for most of the past two seasons with the Vikings. Darnold wants to prove he belongs. Yet all three quarterbacks are saying the right things. They’re helping and supporting one another.

Darnold knows how he performs under pressure in preseason games will determine whether he will open his rookie year as the starter. But he knows he has to put in the work.

“Every single day I step on the field, whether it’s practice or whether it’s a scrimmage or whether it’s a preseason game, I’m just going to take advantage of every single opportunity that I get,” Darnold said. “If I make a great play, awesome, move onto the next one. If I had a bad play, it is what it is, move onto the next one. That’s just kind of the mentality that I’m going to have every single day.”

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