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Sam Darnold to Start for Jets vs. Dolphins After Shoulder Injury

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 27, 2020

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

New York Jets head coach Adam Gase said Friday quarterback Sam Darnold is expected to return from a shoulder injury to start Sunday's Week 12 game against the Miami Dolphins.

"It's been a good week for Sam," Gase told reporters. " ... It just looks a lot different from the last time he tried to make a run at going in a game."

Darnold originally suffered the injury during a Week 4 loss to the Denver Broncos. He returned in Week 7 against the Buffalo Bills but played just two games before aggravating the injury and missing the past two contests.

The third-year USC product has made six starts in 2020, and veteran backup Joe Flacco took the reins of the offense in the other four games. Neither one has made a significant impact as the Jets have slid to the bottom of the NFL standings with an 0-10 record.

Gase explained the team still wanted to see how Darnold would perform with a more complete set of pass-catching weapons available. Wide receivers Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims along with tight end Chris Herndon should all be active Sunday.

"I'd like to see him play with our starting wide receivers," Gase said Thursday. "That would be probably my No. 1 thing I'd love to see."

Injuries to playmakers were one of the key reasons the Jets offense struggled to open the year.

In addition, New York's front office will hope Darnold plays well down the stretch to bolster his trade value heading into the offseason.

Since the Jets are on pace to land the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, and a tough schedule over the final six games makes an 0-16 record a possibility, they're likely going to select a top QB prospect with the No. 1 choice. Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields lead the group.

Darnold can't be blamed for the entirety of the team's struggles, but the opportunity to land Lawrence or Fields on a rookie contract can't be passed up. Darnold will need a contract extension in the next year or two, depending on whether the Jets exercise the fifth-year option in his rookie deal.

So, barring an unexpected surge over the final six weeks that moves New York outside the top two picks, the third overall selection in the 2018 draft will probably land on the trade block in the offseason.

In the short term, Darnold and Co. will attempt to end their losing streak Sunday against the Dolphins. Kickoff at MetLife Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on CBS.

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