Quarterbacks Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater are no strangers to NFL action, but No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold will make his professional debut Friday when the Green & White play host to the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener for both teams.
“I’m really excited,” Darnold said earlier this week. “It’s also about being able to get rid of the ball in a timely manner and being able to process that information because we’re live. This will be the first time that we’re able to get hit. There’s no security blanket on us, we don’t have those red jerseys out there. So, we’re going to be ready to be able to get rid of the ball as fast as possible but also be able to trust our protection and trust what we’ve been working on for so long now.”
The USC product, known for being calm, cool and collected, doesn’t believe controlling his emotions will be a challenge Friday. Neither do the veterans in the QBs room — Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater — who have a combined 21 seasons under their belts.
“That guy, he’s a cool guy. He seems like a guy you can't break and that’s what you want as a quarterback,” Bridgewater said of the rookie. “He is even-keeled. I just watch him, he makes throws and it's like, 'Man this guy, he’s the real deal.' You see that in a guy and it’s like, 'Man this guy, he gets it.' So I said that because Sam, he’s in good hands. He’s in a good room. We’re all in a good room.”
McCown, who is entering his second year with the Jets and 16th preseason, also believes positive things are on the horizon for Darnold.
“You go out there under the lights, and even if it’s preseason, it’s really cool,” he said. “That’s kind of the first step in realizing the dreams all of us have had. That’s the main thing. Just soak it up and enjoy it. As you play the game, no different than any other game, just one play at a time. Just go execute that play and I have high expectations that he’ll go out and play well.”
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Head coach Todd Bowles has consistently said some position battles will be heavily determined by who shines when the lights are on. This year’s team has the most depth since Bowles took over as head coach and with more depth comes steep competition.
“That's why these games are important because they're so close,” he said. “Obviously, we want to see them against different people and different schemes, and going into Friday night will be the start of evaluating these guys fully that are very close. It’s going to be nip tuck. The better your team gets, the harder the decision gets to cutting anybody. So, it's going to be key these next couple games.”
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Right guard Brian Winters said the communication along the offensive line has continued to progress in training camp, specifically in regard to new center Spencer Long. In addition to Long’s debut, the Jets also will likely start veteran Brent Qvale at LT as Kelvin Beachum (foot) remains in a boot.
"I’m excited as a team to get out there,” he said. “We have some new pieces on the offensive line and these are the times we really use in live game situations to mesh together, so I’m really excited.”