FLORHAM PARK Dwayne Harris Jersey , N.J. (AP) — Even Broadway Joe thinks the New York Jets might finally have their next franchise quarterback.
Joe Namath met Sam Darnold on the field at MetLife Stadium before the team’s third preseason game and it provided quite the snapshot.
Past meets future — and, maybe, the present.
“I’ve seen Sam perform tonight,” Namath said during the TV broadcast, “better than I’ve seen any rookies I can remember.”
That’s high praise from the only man to quarterback the Jets to a Super Bowl victory.
And that came 50 seasons ago.
The stunning win over the Colts will be celebrated by the team and its fans this year. It’s also a brutal reminder of how long it has been since the Jets were on top of the football world.
Darnold, they hope, can someday end that drought.
“That’s the goal for everyone,” Darnold said a few weeks after being drafted No. 3 overall. “Anything short of that is a failure and we’re aware of that. Everyone is aware of that. Whatever my role is, I’m going to star in that role to work us toward that Super Bowl.”
The former USC star had a solid summer and impressed the coaching staff with his ability to quickly digest the playbook along with his veteran-like presence and approach.
Darnold was given every chance to win the competition that included Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, and he didn’t disappoint. Bridgewater was traded to New Orleans on Wednesday.
“He’s able to take the classroom knowledge and all the stuff he’s studied in the classroom and take it right to the field and execute it,” offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said. “We’re throwing a lot of football at him and he’s been able to handle it.”
Darnold could become the 31st quarterback to start a game for the Jets since Namath’s last appearance for the franchise in 1976. That’s a lot of searching and a long time waiting.
There’s big-time hope that Darnold is the answer, and that has the Jets and their fans optimistic about this season — and the future.
“He did everything we’ve asked him to do,” coach Todd Bowles said.
Here are some other things to know as the Jets enter the regular season:
WHOSE LINE IS IT?
While all eyes have been on the quarterbacks, the offensive line will be a major focus — no matter who’s calling the plays in the huddle.
The Jets signed center Spencer Long, who’s an upgrade over Wesley Johnson Kenny Young Jersey , but the rest of the line is back. And, it remains to be seen if that’s a good thing.
Inconsistency and injuries made for a shaky season, and depth this year could be an issue. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum dealt with an ankle injury most of the summer, and right guard Brian Winters was in and out of the lineup with soreness.
“They’ve got to work together,” Bowles said of the line. “They have to be healthy, obviously, but I feel good about them when they are healthy.”
One of the priorities for the Jets during the offseason was to find a pass-rushing presence, particularly at outside linebacker.
No one emerged during training camp, and that could be something general manager Mike Maccagnan tries to address as the season goes along.
Leonard Williams is perhaps New York’s best overall player, but even he had only two sacks last season — although he racked up 28 quarterback hits. He needs help, though, and that means the likes of Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin and Henry Anderson must provide consistent pressure.
An under-the-radar strength might be the Jets’ receiving group, which might lack what some consider a true No. 1 talent but has good playmaking potential.
Robby Anderson had a breakout year in his second season, catching 63 catches for 941 yards and seven TDs while establishing himself as a deep threat. Jermaine Kearse led the Jets with 65 receptions after coming to New York from Seattle. Quincy Enunwa looked solid late in camp as he returned from a neck injury that sidelined him all last season. Terrelle Pryor Philip Rivers Jersey , still working his way back from two ankle surgeries in the past year, showed flashes this summer of the player who was so promising in Cleveland in 2016.
The Jets’ biggest offseason free-agent addition was cornerback Trumaine Johnson , who signed a five-year, $72.5 million deal. They’re hoping he and Morris Claiborne combine to form one of the NFL’s top cornerback combinations.
Add in the safety tandem of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, both coming off solid rookie seasons, and New York’s secondary could be a strength after struggling quite a bit the past few years.
“It’s all (on) what we do with it,” Claiborne said. “We have all the pieces. We just have to find a way to put it together and go get some wins.”
PLAYOFFS OR BUST?
The Jets haven’t been to the postseason since the 2010 season — back when Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez were all the buzz.
Yeah, it’s been a while.
But despite the drought, owner Christopher Johnson hasn’t set a playoff mandate for Bowles and Maccagnan. Johnson wants to see continued progression. The feeling is that the franchise is building toward next season, when the team has more than $100 million in cap space and could really make a playoff push.
Kirk Cousins pushed himself so hard last summer that by Washington's second regular-season game, he felt as if his body and mind aged 10 extra weeks.
This time, even though he's in a new place in Minnesota, his goal for the summer break is to make it a little less intense.
"I had treated July and August like it was game day," Cousins said, reflecting on his 2017 preparation with the Redskins.
"You have to pace yourself a little bit. Because I feel a little behind the 8-ball and am learning the offense Doug Flutie Jersey , I do need to be in it every day, but there also needs to be a healthy balance of getting away, catching your breath and getting a change of scenery, knowing that when we come back at the end of July we still have six more weeks" before the opener.
Cousins and his ability to adapt to the Vikings have been squarely in the spotlight since he signed his unprecedented $84 million fully guaranteed three-year contract three months ago, making himself the fulcrum of this franchise that's still seeking its first Super Bowl trophy.
There have been some rough stretches, such as when he threw two interceptions during a red zone drill on Wednesday, and the defense appears predictably ahead of the offense at this stage of the 2018 team-building.
The practice time open to reporters this spring, though, has not been without sharpness or rhythm considering there's a new quarterback trying to learn it along with everyone else.
"It's a bit like drinking through a fire hose right now," Cousins said.
When he's not spending time with his wife and infant son or otherwise soaking up the vacation time from practice, Cousins will have his iPad close by as he meticulously reviews his performance in organized team activities and minicamp running the plays designed by offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.
"I was pleasantly surprised with the rapport. There was a fair amount of carry-over from what I've done in the past, so that was a good first step," Cousins said. "Whenever I did suggest something, he's just been a great listener. He's been a great communicator, and I love his passion for the game."
Coach Mike Zimmer sounded more than pleased by the hire he made Lee Roy Selmon Jersey , his third offensive coordinator in the past three seasons.
"It's really been seamless," Zimmer said.
DeFilippo offered a similar assessment of his supervision of Cousins, describing his work against the defense in a blitz-heavy portion of practice on Wednesday.
"He did some subtle things that tell you he's really understanding the little intricacies of what we're trying to accomplish," DeFilippo said.
Cousins, of course, is not the only one with summer homework. Mike Remmers spent most of the time in the spring at right guard, with Rashod Hill taking his place at right tackle, so there's still room for him to learn a new spot.
Terence Newman was playing some safety this week next to Harrison Smith, with Andrew Sendejo held out because of an undisclosed injury. Then there's rookie cornerback Mike Hughes, who has made a strong first impression but must continue his development at the nickel spot by studying the nuances of a difficult position.
So the break has begun, with rookies scheduled to report for training camp on July 24 and the rest of the squad due in three days later.
"Pretty much the same thing I always tell them this time of year: Keep working, make sure they come back in not just jogging shape but in shape to plant, drive and break and get in and out of stances and things like that," Zimmer said. "Make sure the good citizens take care of each other."
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