Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

–OK, so we now know (officially) Sam Darnold will be the Jets’ Week 1 starter, with 39-year-old Josh McCown to be his backup. What went into that decision?

“It was close, obviously,” head coach Todd Bowles said Monday. “Sam had a good preseason. We weren’t holding him back, but we weren’t rushing him at the same time. He still has some things to learn, but his poise in the pocket and the way he grasped the offense coming in right away … he gives us a very good chance to win.”

Bowles added there was no one specific thing Darnold did to win him over, but his “awareness of the football game and reaction … made it a little more comfortable.”

Comparing Darnold to McCown, Bowles said the rookie is probably “a step quicker” and can better escape pressure, but McCown is probably a bit smarter football-wise because of his experience. Darnold said McCown has been the best mentor he could have asked for.

“Josh is the best,” Darnold said Monday. “For what he’s been able to do for me these past few months has been amazing. Words can’t really describe what he’s been able to do for me. … It’s definitely a blessing having Josh in here.”

Darnold finished the preseason 29-for-45 passing (64 percent) for 244 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Bowles tried his best Monday not to put too much pressure on the rookie.

“We’re gonna go play Detroit with 52 other guys,” Bowles said. “It’s not just him.”

–Bowles acknowledged after Monday’s practice the Jets’ interest in Khalil Mack, whom the Raiders traded to the Bears on Saturday for two first-round picks and then Chicago signed to a six-year, $141 million extension (with $90 million guaranteed) on Sunday, making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history.

“There was interest, I’m sure,” Bowles said about Mack. “But he went to the Bears, and that’s that.”

Outside linebacker is a position of need for the Jets, who are slated to start Jordan Jenkins and Josh Martin on the outside in their 3-4 scheme, and they had the cap room to sign Mack to an extension. But their offer, reportedly next year’s first-round pick plus two third-rounders, wasn’t good enough. Remember, they don’t have a second-round pick next season because that went to the Colts in the trade up to No. 3 this year to get Darnold.

–While Darnold will be the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start Week 1, he’s not the youngest to ever start a game. That honor belongs to Tommy Maddox, who started for the 1992 Broncos in place of the injured John Elway at 21 years, 81 days (Darnold will be 21 years, 97 days on Monday). Maddox was shut out in that Week 11 matchup against the Raiders. He started four straight games before Elway’s return and lost them all, and the Broncos finished 8-8.

Also, with Darnold’s start on Monday, at least one rookie quarterback has started on opening weekend for 11 straight seasons.

–CB Trumaine Johnson: The Jets signed the seven-year veteran to a five-year, $72.5 million deal (with $34 million guaranteed) for a reason. He had 18 interceptions in three seasons with the Rams, which isn’t a crazy high number, but considering Marcus Maye and Terrence Brooks led the Jets with two last year, three (plus locking down the opposing team’s best receiver) will be enough to warrant this honor.

–It’s QB Sam Darnold, obviously. But since we’ve talked enough about him recently, allow me to offer a sleeper pick. DE Nathan Shepherd: The third-round pick out of tiny Fort Hays State is still a bit raw, but he’s slated to start opposite Leonard Williams on the defensive line, so he’ll get plenty of opportunities for sacks. Plus, he’s a solid run defender. His 25th birthday is the day of the Jets’ opener in Detroit, which is old for a rookie, but that’s because he’s had quite a journey to even get this far, once working odd jobs just to pay his own tuition.