Several new items on the agenda brought a dash of added excitement to this year's Green & White Practice.
For one thing, the venue changed, from MetLife Stadium last year to a little more intimate practice under the lights of Rutgers University's High Point Solutions Stadium.
A nice-sized Saturday night crowd filled in much of the lower level of the Central Jersey venue, and they had plenty to cheer. Needless to say, one of their targets was rookie QB Sam Darnold, the third pick of April's draft who would be throwing at his first public practice in front of Jets fans.
"We'll look at the film and see what happened," head coach Todd Bowles said afterwards. "He's grasping the offense. It's been barely a week for him so it's getting better every day and we'll go from there."
But while Darnold had some nice completions (and also lost a center snap), one rookie who impressed was sixth-round RB Trenton Cannon, who displayed his as-advertised speed on sweeps and tosses and after the catch.
"Trenton's got a chance to make some plays and he's fast," said Bowles, "so it'll be great to see him in the preseason games."
Best Images from Saturday Night's Practice Scrimmage at Rutgers
The entire roster participated, of course, but the accent was on the younger Jets, especially the second and third teams quarterbacked by Teddy Bridgewater and Darnold for most of the nearly hour-long third period of the practice.
Veteran TE Neal Sterling stood out with several receptions, and on defense LB Brandon Copeland got off the defense's right edge nicely for at least one sack and sixth-round rookie DL Folorunso Fatukasi had some nice tackles for loss.
Also in attendance were 68 Jets alums made the trek down from Florham Park as a part of Legends Weekend and were greeted warmly by the crowd. Among the Legends were Ring of Honor members Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons, Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker and Wayne Chrebet. And the New York Jets Flight Crew added a touch of gameday ambience.
The night finished with fireworks and music — and it featured too much pass rush pressure, good for the defense but not so good for the QBs, said Bowles.
"We had some good passes. We let too many guys get to the backfield, from the quarterback's standpoint and the young guys had too many penalties. But overall it was productive."
After the first 10 plays of the 20-minute second period. (McCown 3-for-3, Bridgewater 2-for-3, Darnold 1-for-3), Bridgewater hit Cannon on a slant and Trenton got the crowd on its feet with his speed after the catch.
Then early in the 60-minute third period, Bridgewater tossed to Cannon and he turned the corner for a nice 16-yard rush.
But later in the period, Trenton didn't get a chance to get going as he took a toss from Darnold and went down almost immediately on a tackle by the penetrating Fatukasi.
Sterling also showed well with several nice receptions. One was a 43-yard step-up completion from Darnold that was called back by a holding penalty.
Sam Steps Up
But then Darnold stepped up against the rush and feathered a nice ball to Sterling over his defender for a 30-yard completion. And Sterling caught a 20-yarder on the last play of the night, which ended the 1-hour, 50-minute practice.
Darnold also showed some nice decisions to tuck the ball and go for the chains. On third-and-2, the rookie QB rolled left, saw an opening, bolted and slid for a 9-yard gain and a first down.
Wideouts weren't as featured in this session as the tight ends, with Clive Walford and fourth-round rookie Chris Herndon also latched onto first-down passes in the third frame.
Bertolet Booms One
The Green & White got under way with special teams/position drills. First-year kicker Taylor Bertolet handled all the placements and was impressive in these early drills. He converted from 51 yards out and then boomed his last kick from 57 yards out. Had the kick come in a regular-season game at MetLife Stadium, it would have tied the Jets' FG distance record. It came instead at Rutgers in the G&W, but it was impressive just the same.
However, Bertolet was 1-for-2 when trying to finish drives in the more-game-like third period. He was wide right from 46 yards out before converting from 31 yards.