After missing two games with an injured throwing arm, quarterback Sam Darnold will start for the undefeated New York Jets on Sunday – their first game with the entire group of players with a starting position.
“I think these guys want to see what it could have been like since the beginning of the year,” coach Adam Gaze said on Friday, confirming that Darnold is ready to face the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.
Darnold, who suffered a sprained joint during the week, impressed the coaches this week in practice. Gaze spoke confidently about the strength of Darnold’s hand, saying that only a failure in practice on Friday would protect him from the squad.
“Which I don’t expect,” Gaze said. “Everything looks fine.”
Darnold has missed four of his last six games because he aggravated his injury in week 8 against the Kansas City bosses. He tried to play next week against the New England Patriots, but did not feel well and got out of training.
“The way he throws football right now, you can say there’s a big difference in terms of control, speed and changing the pace of his throws,” Gaze said. “It looks a lot different than the last time he tried to try to play a game.”
Earlier this week, Darnold said his only concern was how his shoulder would respond to contact. After two days of full practice, he clearly feels that his shoulder is strong enough to take the blow.
Unlike his previous six starts, Darnold will have his full lineup of playmakers. Broad receivers Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims, all injured at various times, are healthy. With Joe Flacco in quarterback, the passing game has shown signs of improvement in the last two games.
Now it’s Darnold’s turn. Gaze said he was “fired” to see what he looked like. Jets (0-10) are ranked last in points and total yards.
This is an important stretch for Darnold, whose future looks uncertain. The Jets could win their first or second choice in the NFL draft in 2021, which means they will have to make a quarterback decision. Clemson’s quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the supposed best choice.
Darnold, the third overall pick in 2018, is battling this season. He ranks 30th out of 30 qualifying quarterbacks in Total QBR with a low career level of 39.5.