Assistant Coach Says No. 3 Overall Pick Is Extremely Cerebral, Continues To Look Down Field When Things Break Down

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jeremy Bates already knew Sam Darnold was pretty special from working with the No. 3 overall draft pick in the offseason.

Still, the New York Jets offensive coordinator wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the young quarterback on his first day of training camp.

After all, Darnold was three days late because of a contract holdout and Bates figured he would have some catching up to do.

“When he came out on the field, he didn’t even have meetings, and he just went in there and started calling plays and running plays,” Bates recalled Monday.

“A lot of young quarterbacks, it takes a while to learn the plays and spit it out in the huddle. That, a lot of times, takes a whole year for some guys.

“He just came out, no meeting time, and he hit the field running.”

And, Darnold hasn’t stopped.

Sam Darnold

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold warms up before a preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on Aug. 16, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The 21-year-old rookie has been impressive this summer in a three-man competition with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater. It also appears he’s well on his way to being the Jets’ starter when New York opens the regular season at Detroit on Sept. 10.

“I think he’s progressing extremely fast for a young quarterback to come in here,” Bates said.

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While coach Todd Bowles has not announced who will start under center in the team’s third preseason game Friday night against the Giants, it would be shocking if it’s not Darnold.

He has taken the bulk of the snaps in camp since signing his four-year, $30.25 million deal on July 30, and Darnold is working more frequently with the starting unit lately. He was the third quarterback in the preseason opener against Atlanta and was terrific, and got the start at Washington last week in an up-and-down performance.

And, it’s not only the work he’s doing on the field that has Bates excited.

“He’s able to take the classroom knowledge and take it right to the field and execute it,” Bates said. “We’re throwing a lot of football at him and he’s able to handle it. Man, he’s owned the playbook. That’s probably the most impressive thing.”

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That’s high praise from a coach who has worked his way up in the NFL by working primarily with quarterbacks over the past 15-plus years.

Bates scouted Darnold in the pre-draft process and liked what everyone else did about him leading up to April. There was lots of tape and game film to watch from Darnold’s days at USC, and the Jets’ offensive coordinator sees some of the attributes that made the youngster so coveted in college on the field in practice and the preseason games.

“When things break down, which they do probably 70 percent of the game, he’s able to keep his head downfield,” Bates said. “He’s able to scramble and find the (passing) lanes and he finds an open receiver. Just being able to make plays off schedule is very powerful. He did it in college and he’s still doing it today.”

There have been things Darnold has shown during the past few months, however, that he couldn’t have predicted.

“How easy is the game is for him, both mentally and physically,” Bates said. “We haven’t scaled back offensively. We were giving Sam the same amount of information and the same plays that we were giving Josh and Teddy.”

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Darnold has been far from perfect, of course, but his first impression has been overwhelmingly positive.

The fact he brushes off his miscues like a seasoned veteran and rarely makes the same mistake has also endeared him to Bates and the rest of the Jets’ coaches.

“He moves to the next play, for a young kid, unbelievably,” Bates said. “He doesn’t dwell on it. Nothing is too big for him. He’s everything you’re looking for in a young quarterback as far as the ability to go out there and the stage isn’t too big for him. When the lights come on, he gets better.”

NOTES: During a radio interview on WFAN’s “Boomer & Gio Show,” general manager Mike Maccagnan wouldn’t rule out trading either Bridgewater or McCown this summer. “There’s nothing to stop us from keeping three,” he said. “There’s nothing to stop us from keeping two.” With Darnold edging closer to winning the starting job — Maccagnan called him “really sort of unflappable” — it’s believed Bridgewater would garner the most interest from teams looking for an experienced backup or potential starter. … Starting RG Brian Winters and LT Kelvin Beachum returned to team drills after dealing with injuries the past few days. Beachum hadn’t participated in 11-on-11 drills in more than two weeks since hurting his right ankle. He was still spelled at times by Brent Qvale. … RB Isaiah Crowell (concussion) and CB Trumaine Johnson (hamstring) fully practiced.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)