Sam Darnold may start the season as the Jets’ starting quarterback, but at the moment, he occupies the third spot on the team’s depth chart.
Ever since Sam Darnold was drafted, there’s been a heavy undercurrent of suspicion that he would be the first rookie quarterback to win a starting job this season. That still may happen for the former USC star this season, but the coaching staff is sending clear signals that Darnold still has a long way to go.
In fact, Darnold isn’t even the Jets’ No. 2 signal caller at this point. That honor goes to Teddy Bridgewater. Instead, Darnold was listed as the team’s third-string quarterback in their most recent depth chart.
That doesn’t mean any Jets fans should start panicking about Darnold’s long-term prospects. In fact, this doesn’t even change the chances of him being the team’s starter when Week 1 arrives. This is a clear attempt by the Todd Bowles and Co. to keep Darnold’s nose to the grindstone.
The worst thing they could do for their rookie quarterback is to heap massive expectations on him any sooner than necessary. The New York media is going to do plenty of that all by themselves. It’s the job of the Jets organization to try to protect Darnold from media scrutiny as much as possible.
Listing him as the third string quarterback behind Josh McCown and Bridgewater might quiet the media for a day or two at least. The competence of the other quarterbacks on the roster also make this depth chart believable for the moment. McCown isn’t going to the Pro Bowl anytime soon, but he has the ability to be a below-average starting quarterback in the NFL. In other words, the Jets can start him without risking an absolute dumpster fire at the position.
Bridgewater is an even more intriguing option. Obviously, he’s coming back from a very serious injury. If he can make a full recovery (and that’s a big if) Bridgewater could actually emerge as an above-average starting quarterback. That could potentially allow him to serve as a bridge to Darnold or to serve as a major trade asset for the Jets.
The reality is that Jets fans shouldn’t pay too much attention to announced depth charts at this point in the preseason. Instead, they should focus on what opportunities Darnold gets during preseason games as the regular season approaches. That’s how they can really gauge just how close Darnold is to becoming the team’s starter.