Will Sam Darnold Be the Jets Starting QB This Season? No. 3 Overall Pick Impresses in Pre-season

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Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets carries the ball as Duke Riley #42 of the Atlanta Falcons defends during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 10 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Darnold impressed in his first pre-season game. Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Jets have spent years trying to solve their quarterback conundrum and this season could be the year they finally found the answer they have been looking for.

The off-season saw the Jets bolster their depth in the position, signing Josh McCown to a new one-year deal worth $10 million and adding Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold to the fold as well.

While McCown is a veteran entering his 17th season and Bridgewater has just returned to football after missing almost two full seasons, Darnold is the new kid on the block, the number three overall pick of the 2018 draft.

McCown threw 18 touchdowns last season but has largely watched from the sidelines in the Jets' pre-season opener against the Falcons on Friday, while Bridgewater completed seven of his attempted eight passes for 95 yards.

It was then Darnold's turn to shine and the former University of Southern California student threw for 96 yards and a touchdown, completing 13 of 18 passes. On Sunday, the quarterback was under center for 12 first-team snaps in a joint practice session with the Washington Redskins, while McCown and Bridgewater received seven and one respectively.

"No matter who I'm working with, reps are always the key, but I think working with the first team gets me more comfortable with those guys and they get more comfortable with me and the way I like to play," he told USA Today.

Jets coach Todd Bowles, meanwhile, indicated Darnold's increased practice workload does not necessarily mean he has moved ahead of McCown and Bridgewater in the race to be the Jets' starting quarterback.

"It's important to get him working and caught up with certain things defenses are doing," he said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN. "That's more important than getting him reps with the first, second or third team."

Along with number-one overall pick Baker Mayfield, Darnold is considered to be the most promising quarterback of this year's rookie class and speculation he could make the starting spot his own has grown over the last couple of weeks.

The Jets have not yet confirmed who will start as quarterback in their two remaining pre-season games against the Redskins on Thursday and against the Giants the following Friday.

Sam Darnold “has a very fair shot” of winning Jets’ starting QB job for regular-season opener, per sources. He has to keep progressing, preseason will be critical, and he probably is a year away, when he turns 22. But Jets love what they see and he has a legit chance to win job.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 6, 2018

Traditionally, the third pre-season game serves as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, while coaches tend to rotate their squads in the fourth pre-season encounter.

While Darnold might not start for the Jets this season, he has already shown plenty of promising signs. At 6 feet 3 inches and 221 pounds he cuts an imposing figure, and against the Falcons he showed a poise and control not typical of a 21-year-old.

His first touchdown for the Jets came as he stepped up in the pocket before delivering a 16-yard pass in the hands of Charles Johnson, and his ability to thrive when play breaks down is one of his strongest traits.

Sam Darnold steps through the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, and finds the open man for the TD pic.twitter.com/o9hq9cHVEX

— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) August 11, 2018

The Jets open their campaign against the Lions on the first Monday Night Football of the season, and even if Darnold doesn't start, his time will surely come sooner rather than later.