FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – After their final training camp practice Wednesday, coach Todd Bowles expressed satisfaction that his team is heading in the right direction, even if the Jets aren’t quite a finished product heading into the regular season.
“From a team standpoint, coming together pretty good,” Bowles said. “Pretty satisfied. Not where we want to be right now, but we’re not where we were when we started. Just going to keep our head down and keep grinding.”
The Jets on Friday have what amounts to their final dress rehearsal in advance of their Sept. 10 regular season opener when they host the Giants in their annual preseason matchup. Bowles said his starters will work into the third quarter, their last chance to play for a significant period of time before the regular season. The Jets face the Eagles next Thursday in the final preseason game, but most key starters will hardly play – if they play at all – in that one.
“I’m encouraged every day, but moving forward, it’s a work in progress,” Bowles said. “Right now, we’re trying to fine tune everything, pick the right guys for the team and get the schemes down to make sure we got the right 53 [roster players].”
While Bowles wouldn’t name his starting quarterback for the Giants game, all indications point to rookie Sam Darnold, who has taken virtually all the first-team reps this week. Darnold also started last week’s game in Washington, with Teddy Bridgewater replacing him for the second half. Josh McCown, who went into training camp as the presumptive starter, has played only one series in the preseason.
It has been an unexpectedly promising camp for Darnold, who has done nothing but impress his coaches and teammates since reporting to camp after a three-day contract holdout. He has shown steady improvement and is arguably playing as well as Bridgewater and McCown at this point. Assuming he starts against the Giants, it will be the most extensive game action he will have seen so far in the preseason.
Like last season, it has been a three-way competition in training camp. But with Darnold and Bridgewater in the fold a year after Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, there’s no comparison in terms of the talent level. Bowles also likes what he has seen from his current group of quarterbacks off the field.
“As far as helping each other, yes,” Bowles said. “Bryce and Hack were outstanding as well, but these guys [this year] seemed to hit it off even more on and off the field. Before, everybody goes their separate ways. But these guys kind of understand and help each other a little more. From that standpoint, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Bowles believes the overall feel in this year’s camp has been solid, especially compared to this point last year.
“From a chemistry standpoint, we may be further along, with guys being here for the second year in a row,” Bowles said. “It’s still hard to tell, but we have two weeks to go. We’re not a finished product, by any means.”
The roster may not be a finished product, either. With speculation that the Jets may trade Bridgewater or look to bring in a pass rusher, there could be a few significant moves ahead.
“We’ll find out who’s on the trading block, who we might want and what position we might go after,” Bowles said. “We’ll decide as a group whether we can move forward or not. Sometimes, it’s out of your hands, but if we can get something that will help our team, we will.”