Today: 22.09.2018
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21.09.2018

Confessions of a Sam Darnold convert.

Sometimes, even the most stubborn of minds can be changed. Even after watching Sam Darnold perform in his first two preseason games with more than a little bit of success for a 21-year-old kid who played all of two years of college ball, I’ve staunchly held onto the philosophy that a rookie quarterback should not...
Time: 01:03     Date: 21.08.2018
Last US Sport News: Confessions of a Sam Darnold convert. NY Post 24 - US News

Even after watching Sam Darnold perform in his first two preseason games with more than a little bit of success for a 21-year-old kid who played all of two years of college ball, I’ve staunchly held onto the philosophy that a rookie quarterback should not become an immediate starter in the NFL.

The benefit of sitting behind an established coach-on-the-field veteran like Jets’ incumbent Josh McCown — even if for just a few weeks — seems too beneficial for Darnold.

There’s been much evidence in the NFL that supports sitting benefiting successful quarterbacks over the years (Aaron Rodgers is a poster child for that cause, with Eli Manning not far behind).

So, despite his lofty status as the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, the talk of Darnold starting Week 1 for the Jets is talk I haven’t been in agreement with — even if it includes an impressive performance in Friday night’s regular-season dress rehearsal against the Giants.

Then, after listening to Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates speak about Darnold on Monday, my mind was changed, convincing me that starting him in the Sept. 10 “Monday Night Football” opener in Detroit is the right thing to do.

Seeing Darnold through the eyes of Bates, it sounds like the Jets finally might have found that franchise quarterback they’ve been so starved for since long before Darnold was born.

“He’s everything you’re looking for in a young quarterback,’’ Bates said, making his first public comments of the summer. “The game’s not too big for him. The stage isn’t too big for him. When the lights come on, he gets better.’’

Bates raved about how Darnold, who’s completed 21-of-29 passes in two preseason games for a startling 72.4 percent rate of accuracy, “is progressing extremely fast for a young guy.’’

Bates referenced when Darnold, after ending a three-day contract holdout to start training camp, trotted onto the field after practice had already begun as an early eye-opening moment.

“When he came out onto the field, he [hadn’t] even had meetings and he just went in there and started calling plays and running plays,’’ Bates said. “[For] a lot of young quarterbacks, it takes them awhile to learn the plays and spit it out in the huddle. That, a lot of times, takes a whole year for some guys.’’

“We haven’t scaled back offensively,’’ Bates said. “We’re giving Sam the same amount of information and same plays that we’re giving Josh and Teddy [Bridgewater]. He’s able to take all the stuff he’s studied in the classroom and take it to the field and execute it. We’re throwing a lot of football at him and he’s able to handle it.’’

Bates marveled at Darnold’s “ability to make plays off-schedule’’ as one of his greatest gifts.

“As we all know, it’s not a 7-on-7 league, and when things break down — which they do probably 70 percent of the game — he’s able to keep his head down the field, is able to scramble, find the lanes and find the open receiver,’’ Bates said. “Just being able to make plays off-schedule is very powerful. He did it in college and he’s still doing it today.’’

Darnold’s ability to quickly bounce back from a poor play is another element to his game that has blown Bates away.

“Actually, when he [makes] a mistake, on the next play he’s more focused, more intense and he usually does better on that next play,’’ Bates said.

Though head coach Todd Bowles coyly has declined to name his opening-night starter, the way he’s been utilizing Darnold — both in practice and in the preseason games — has telegraphed what the Sept. 10 decision will be. It’s become the worst-kept secret in New York sports this summer.

“If a player shows the athletic ability and the talent and has the mental capacity to handle the game plan and go into a game and be successful,’’ Bates said, “then he’s ready to play.’’

Translation: Darnold is their man.

Before listening to Bates, I stubbornly was not on board with that.

After listening to Bates, I’m a believer.

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