Sam Darnold didn’t do anything to hurt his chances to be the Jets’ Week 1 starter. He only enhanced them.
The rookie quarterback started for the second straight game and showed the progress that coach Todd Bowles was looking for Friday night. Darnold led two first-half touchdown drives in the Jets’ 22-16 preseason loss to the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Bowles said he will name his starter after the preseason, which ends Thursday in Philadelphia. He said he still hasn’t made a decision. But it would seem as if something major would have to happen for someone other than Darnold to be running the offense Sept. 10 in Detroit.
“He did everything we asked him to do,” Bowles said. “For the most part, he did his job.”
After a pregame chat on the field with Jets legend Joe Namath, Darnold continued to show the poise, awareness and overall skills that have many believing that the Jets have found their franchise quarterback.
Playing against the Giants’ first-team defense, Darnold beat them with his arm and his legs on the two scoring drives. He finished 8-for-16 for 86 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Darnold started the second half but played only one series and handed off three times on a three-and-out. Teddy Bridgewater replaced Darnold for the rest of the game. Last year’s starter, Josh McCown, who was in Darnold’s ear much of the night, didn’t play.
“I thought I played well,” Darnold said. “Getting in and out of the huddle, I felt really good. I thought I did a pretty good job managing the game pretty well.”
Darnold looked sharp right from the start against the team that passed on him with the No. 2 pick in favor of running back Saquon Barkley. Darnold led the Jets on a 75-yard drive on the opening series that ended with Bilal Powell’s 10-yard touchdown run.
The former USC star converted two third-and-long situations on the drive. One followed an audible after he saw something at the line. On third-and-13, Darnold scrambled for a 14-yard gain. On the next play, he connected with Robby Anderson on a 10-yard pass play.
The Jets’ defense set up Darnold’s second scoring drive. Linebacker Avery Williamson slapped the ball out of Jonathan Stewart’s hands at the Jets’ 8 and Leonard Williams recovered and rumbled 39 yards.
Darnold took it from there, completing all four pass attempts on the five-play series. Darnold found Terrelle Pryor, who made his Jets debut, on a short crossing route, and Pryor ran it in for a 12-yard touchdown that gave the Jets a 13-7 lead.
“I’m just trying to come out here every single game and continue to be consistent,” Darnold said. “Manage the game, don’t turn the ball over and score in the red zone. That’s the biggest thing I try to do as a quarterback.”
Darnold did all of that, but it didn’t take the Jets long to give up the lead. They showed some of the same issues that hampered them last year: too many penalties and poor special teams’ play.
The Jets committed 13 penalties for 108 yards. Four were committed by the special-teams units. Their special teams also gave up a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown by Hunter Sharp. Jets rookie Trenton Cannon fumbled a kickoff that led to a Giants field goal. Jonotthan Harrison was whistled for a false start on the extra-point try after Pryor’s touchdown. Rookie Taylor Bertolet missed the ensuing PAT.
“The penalties were unacceptable, will be unacceptable going forward,” Bowles said. “We have two weeks to clean it up.
“I’m disappointed in the fact that there were some people that had a chance to shine and try to make this team. They had an opportunity and some of them didn’t fare too well.’’
Notes & quotes: Recently signed kicker Jason Myers converted a 20-yard field-goal attempt . . . Receiver Jermaine Kearse didn’t play because of an abdominal injury . . . The NFL fined linebackers Jordan Jenkins, Darron Lee and Frankie Luvu $20,054 each for illegal hits in last week’s game at Washington