Bowles mum on Jets starter, but all signs point to Darnold
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets’ starting quarterback against the Buffalo Bills is ... still to be determined.
All signs indicate it will be rookie Sam Darnold under center after he was a full participant at practice all week following missing three games with a strained right foot. Coach Todd Bowles declined, however, to announce Friday whether it will be Darnold or Josh McCown.
“We’ll decide that on Sunday,” Bowles said. “Between him and Josh, they both had good weeks.”
If Darnold plays, it would be his first game action since being injured against Miami on Nov. 4. Darnold was replaced the last three games by McCown, who had one touchdown pass and four interceptions while the Jets went 0-3.
McCown fully participated in practice Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday by a sore back.
The 21-year-old Darnold is healthy, but Bowles’ decision will be about whether the rookie has his timing back after a three-game layoff.
“Just us deciding whether he’s ready or not,” Bowles said.
The coach added that Darnold being a full participant all week and McCown being limited most of the week wouldn’t play a factor in the final decision.
“They all were limited last week, and Josh played,” Bowles said. “At this point in the season, I can put about 40 guys on there (injury report) limited that’ll play.”
Bowles shed little light on what would go into the team’s decision-making process. When asked what he saw from Darnold this week that he liked, he said simply: “Just that he was healthy.”
Despite the cloak-and-dagger gamesmanship, Darnold is fully expected to take the field against Buffalo to face fellow rookie Josh Allen.
Darnold acknowledged that the final four games are important for him and the rest of the team, which is in the midst of a six-game skid, to finish on a positive note. Bowles said there are things Darnold can improve on as his first NFL season draws to a close.
“Well, everything,” Bowles said. “Obviously, as a rookie quarterback you’re going to have improve on everything every week, and that’s any one of our rookies at any position. He’s got to get better with reads, and he will with playing time and everything else and progressions and getting in and out of the huddle, which he had been doing a good job at before he got hurt.”
Darnold has thrown for 1,934 yards, second to Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield, among rookies. He has 11 touchdown passes along with the 14 INTs, but his 55.0 completion percentage and 68.3 quarterback rating rank near the bottom of the league.
Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates thinks there might have been some benefit to Darnold watching for three games and resetting himself for the final stretch.
“Just sitting back, sitting and watching Josh, how fast he gets to Nos. 2, 3 (in his reads), the progression and how he recognizes defenses and moves off of No. 1 and the tempo of the game,” Bates said. “I think the biggest thing is he experienced the first part of the season, then being able to sit and watch Josh execute the game plan, I think it’s going to be worthwhile.”
Whether it’s Darnold or McCown running the offense Sunday against the Bills, they could be without a few key playmakers.
Linebacker Darron Lee was suspended for four games by the NFL on Friday for violating the substance abuse policy.
Wide receiver Robby Anderson is questionable with an ankle injury that limited him the last two days of practice after fully participating Wednesday. Running back Isaiah Crowell, who leads the team with 680 yards rushing, is also questionable with a toe injury. One positive was that he was limited Friday after sitting out the previous two practices.
Also questionable are cornerback Buster Skrine (shoulder/hip) and tight end Jordan Leggett (knee). Bowles’ said Skrine was sore Friday, so the team limited him at practice.