Report: Rookie Sam Darnold Named Jets' Starting QB After Teddy Bridgewater Trade

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2018

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) looks to pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

The future is now in the Big Apple.

Sam Darnold was named the New York Jets' starting quarterback Wednesday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. That news comes following the trade of free-agent signee Teddy Bridgewater, who NFL Network's Michael Silver reported was dealt to the New Orleans Saints for a third-round pick.

The No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft also beat out journeyman and incumbent starter Josh McCown.

New York signed (or re-signed, in one case) veterans in March to provide stability to the position. However, it was a rookie who came out on top in the quarterback competition.

Last year at USC, Darnold completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards and 26 touchdowns. He threw 57 touchdown passes in two seasons as the Trojans starter.

Darnold was in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft, but the Cleveland Browns opted to go with 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. The Jets—who had traded up to No. 3 prior to the draft—wound up taking the former USC star to be the face of the franchise.

There wasn't much of a wait for him to get under center after he impressed throughout the summer.

The rookie got off to a strong start in the preseason, completing 13 of 18 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in his preseason debut. While things weren't as easy his second time out (8-of-11, 62 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception), he looks at each opportunity as part of the learning process.

"Every single game I play is huge," Darnold said following his second preseason appearance, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. "I feel like I'm going to continue to grow and get better every single day. That's what I'm most excited about."

Darnold continued to show progress and impress as the summer went on. He started the second and third/final three preseason games, a sign that he had made a strong impression on coach Todd Bowles. 

While some 21-year-olds may feel overwhelmed by being a high pick and playing in one of the biggest cities in the world, Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has seen plenty of poise from Darnold.

"He's everything you're looking for in a young quarterback as far as the ability to go out there, and the game isn't too big for him," Bates said, via Cimini. "The stage isn't too big for him. Really, when the lights come on, he gets better."

General manager Mike Maccagnan echoed similar sentiments.

"Of all the young quarterbacks I've been around, I've been exceptionally impressed by Sam," Maccagnan said on WFAN's Boomer and Gio Show in mid-August, via Andy Vasquez of the North Jersey Record. "Sam probably is at the top of that list."

Not only are people within the Jets organization big fans of him, but he also has quickly earned the respect of his opponents.

"Someone asked me about him the other day, and I was like, yeah, whatever, he's just a guy," Washington's Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. "Then you go out here and see him making these throws and you're like, all right. That's not so much a college-level throw. He's putting them on the money. ... It's like, dang."

As the preseason progressed, there was enough momentum for Darnold that it would have been an upset for anyone else to get the nod. With this decision, Darnold (21 years, 97 days) is set to become the youngest Week 1 starting quarterback in NFL history, according to Mehta.

Darnold and the Jets open the season on Monday Night Football on Sept. 10 against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit.

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