FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sam Darnold has made a strong impression on New York Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who hinted the rookie quarterback could be the starter if he continues to absorb the playbook at his current pace.
“Are we giving him bits and pieces of the offense or are we throwing everything at him? We’re throwing everything at him,” Bates said Wednesday at minicamp. “If he can handle it, if he can prove that he’s the starter, then that will take place when the time comes.”
The Jets will give Darnold a chance to win the job in the preseason, but it won’t be easy. He’s competing against incumbent Josh McCown and former Minnesota Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom have a huge edge in experience.
The organization’s plan is to be patient with Darnold, drafted third overall, but it won’t hold him back if he’s ready.
“If you treat them like a rookie, they’ll become a rookie, so we threw the whole book at him to see what he can handle and what he needs to work on — just like the other two — and he’s done a really good job,” Bates said of his new pupil. “Ever since rookie camp, he hasn’t flinched.”
Typically, Darnold gets a handful of first-team reps in each practice, with McCown receiving the vast majority of the work with the starters. On Wednesday, Darnold displayed both power and touch on a variety of throws.
Darnold, 21, who would be the youngest quarterback in Jets history to start a game if it happens in 2018, seemed uncomfortable when asked if he can win the job in the preseason.
“Anything is possible,” he said. “I think I’m capable of a lot of things, but it’s not up to me to decide.”
“If you treat them like a rookie, they’ll become a rookie, so we threw the whole book at him to see what he can handle and what he needs to work on — just like the other two — and he’s done a really good job. Ever since rookie camp, he hasn’t flinched.”
Jets OC Jeremy Bates on Sam Darnold
Bates, who will have a big say in the decision, spoke glowingly of Darnold’s ability to absorb information. He said the former USC star has done an “amazing” job of learning to play under center and calling plays in the huddle. In the Trojans’ offense, it was mostly shotgun and no-huddle.
The most impressive thing about Darnold, according to Bates, is “his suddenness — the ability to make plays off schedule.”
“He’s just very sudden,” said Bates, speaking to reporters for the first time since being promoted from quarterbacks coach. “When he has a guy open, the ball is out now. I describe him as a very sudden player. There’s not a lot of wasted thought process.”
Darnold arrived in the NFL with a reputation for being turnover prone — 13 interceptions and nine lost fumbles last season. Bates attributed that to a “gunslinger type of mentality.” His hope is to teach him risk management. Turnovers haven’t been an issue through 12 practices.
“Obviously, he’s a rookie — he’s going to make some mistakes — but he doesn’t make them twice,” Bates said. “I’m really excited about him.”