In the lead-up to training camp, newyorkjets.com will be breaking down the key storylines for each position group. Today, we look at quarterback.
Room with Some Boom
On the face of it, this could be one of the most competitive quarterback training camps in franchise history — the returning starter (Josh McCown), in many ways coming off a career year, vying for the starting job with a former first-round pick with a winning NFL record and a playoff start under his belt (Teddy Bridgewater) and the third overall pick of April's draft (Sam Darnold).
The last time the Jets had a QB room this competitive might have been 2006 (actually, it wasn't that close) when first-rounder Chad Pennington beat out Kellen Clemens (second-rounder in '06), Brooks Bollinger (sixth-rounder in '03) and former first-rounder and trade pickup Patrick Ramsey. In 2000, Pennington pushed former first overall pick Vinny Testaverde, the star of '98, and Ray Lucas, impressive in nine starts in '99. How about 1983, with Richard Todd (sixth overall pick in '76) holding off rookie and 24th overall pick Ken O'Brien and established backup Pat Ryan?
Of course, draft history may help frame this year's story but will have far less to do with the outcome than the dynamic among the three QBs and with new OC Jeremy Bates. But heading into the summer, said McCown: "I love this room as much as any one I've been in in 17 years, not only because of the character but because of the skillsets."
Josh: Fountain of Youth
McCown's win-loss record in his first year as the Jets' starter was a mere 5-8 before he got hurt, but many other metrics spoke of a career rebirth for the then-38-year-old: career bests with 67.3% accuracy, 18 touchdown passes, five rushing TDs and eight 100-plus passer rating games. Should he draw the starting assignment again, a big reason he might rival or surpass those figures is his young-at-heart mentality while being pushed by two QBs with literally younger hearts, and arms, legs and bodies.
"You know Teddy is going to bring his A-game and Sam is improving every day," McCown said. "I think I allow their presence to help me even more as I focus on how I am going to perform because it pushes me."
Best Images of the Jets QBs at Media Day
Teddy: Fighting and Dreaming
Bridgewater has been impressive on a number of fronts. He calls himself a fighter, which shows in how he's battled back from his devastating knee injury as a Viking in the summer of '16. He talks about his love of the game, which explains why he said he shed some tears on the Vikes sideline when he was activated last year. He deflected all questions about starting this year, focusing instead on "continuing to live my dream and be the best teammate I can be."
Still, it was pleasantly surprising that Teddy B was one of the most impressive Jets this offseason, moving well on his rehabbing knee and throwing crisply on the run at OTAs and minicamp. If he's really this far along, would the Jets trade him to a QB-needy team in late August? Many outside the team have speculated about that but the team has not addressed that possibility. Heading into camp he's a pivotal piece to the Jets' QB puzzle.
From his range of throws, to his focus on improving every day and not repeating mistakes, to his irritation at himself when he does throw a practice pick, to his maturity at the advanced age of 21, Darnold has impressed around the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
Only one rookie QB in franchise history, Mark Sanchez in 2009, has been the Jets starter from day one. Neither Joe Namath, Todd, O'Brien nor Pennington could claim that distinction. Asked if he can be the next to do it, Sam answers in two parts: "That's not up to me," but also, "Yeah, I would say anything is possible." Darnold's quest will be one of the Jets' big summer storylines.