FLORHAM PARK, NJ – For the first time ever Sam Darnold stepped on a football field wearing New York Jets gear (practice gear of course) and threw a football in front of the New York media. Sure, that’s a lot of qualifiers on this debut, but with those qualifiers today counts as a debut of sorts for the rookie quarterback.
The day started with Darnold talking to a gaggle of reporters in the locker room, telling everyone that his main focus was learning the playbook then literally showing everyone that he meant it as he took a seat at his temporary locker and actually studied the playbook while reporters talked to his teammates. From there we took to the field and well, it went about exactly how you’d expect a 20-year-old, talented rookie’s first practice to go.
“Just knowing that, knowing that (the first day) is going to be a challenge (and) if something happens on one play just being ready to move onto the next,” Darnold said before his first practice. “Whether it’s a check-down or whether it’s a pick, you just want to be able to be poised throughout the whole practice like I really have been throughout my whole career.”
Darnold took every rep in team drills except one, when the coaching staff seemed to want to make sure he was hydrated, and he looked comfortable and in control the entire practice. He did botch three different snaps and threw an interception, which might have led to some jokes being made on Twitter, but the sloppiness of those exchanges weren’t just on Darnold as the center wasn’t exactly giving him clean snaps to work with on those three plays and the interception was because the ball deflected off of his target’s hands and bounced into a defender’s. Still those mistakes are exactly what to expect on day one of rookie camp and as the man said he would, he remained poised and responded by shaking the mistakes off and moving on to the next play.
He made some really good throws and some not good throws, more good than bad, but with it being the first day of rookie camp, no more than a handful of players practicing that even have a shot at making the final 53-man roster and no pads there’s no real point in bothering to dissect each and every throw. The takeaway from today was all about how Darnold carried himself throughout the day. He was calm, controlled, comfortable and in-command of the offense. He made some mistakes with accuracy, but he didn’t seem lost or confused for even a single second.
Another thing that was clear today, the Jets are going to give Darnold every chance to earn the starting job before the season starts. He will have to earn it, but much like the Jets tried to give Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg the chance to earn the starting job last offseason, Darnold will get that same chance and it will be up to him and how he performs if he succeeds and earns the job.
“(We’re not) inhibiting him. We’re giving him everything,” Todd Bowles said after practice. “He’s going to learn as he goes, and he might get the reps as he goes. We’ll make that determination in the preseason and see where we are at the end of it, but we’re not holding him back. we’re not rushing him, but we’re not holding him back at all.”
No one would blame you if you were to wonder if a 20-year-old rookie was ready for everything that’s about to come his way playing in New York and for the Jets (a team that has been quarterback starved for as long as many fans can even remember), but he’s not about to run from the challenge or the pressure. He’s ready to embrace it and make you a believer in the process.
“I embrace it, but I understand every single day that’s it’s a process. You got to come in here and earn respect,” Darnold said. “I’m not going to come in here and demand it. I’m a rookie, I understand that, but at the same time I know that I’m a quarterback and that I got to be a leader on the field and off it as well.”
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)