Today was my first day at training camp in 2018. I took in practice on a sunny, hot day in Florham Park.
Here are some of my scattered observations. As always, keep in mind this was only one practice so we shouldn’t draw sweeping conclusions on anything that happened.
McCown’s reps were (correctly) limited: Josh McCown might well be the Jets’ starting quarterback Week 1 in Detroit, but he should require minimal reps to be ready for the season. He’s 39 years old. He’s been in the NFL since 2002. He understands the concepts of this offense. He doesn’t need to play a major role in its installation.
Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t played in two years. Sam Darnold is learning how to play in the NFL on the fly. These guys will benefit much more from getting training camp reps.
The Jets saw things the same way. McCown’s reps were sparse.
All three quarterbacks played well: I didn’t think there was a poor performance in the quarterback room.
McCown didn’t get many snaps, but I thought he had the most impressive pass of the day, a beautiful deep ball to Charles Johnson down the left sideline.
Bridgewater played smart and efficient football. I can’t think of many mistakes he made.
I thought Darnold’s day was a bit more up and down, but there certainly were more highs than lows due to a strong finish. He made a number of excellent throws into tight windows. Some were touch passes. Others had to be driven. What also impressed me was his presnap work. On a few occasions he made a correct adjustment at the line. One play that really impressed me happened in the red zone when Trenton Cannon was split wide. Darnold saw the matchup he wanted and attacked it. Cannon drew a flag. There were a few rookie moments, such as a couple of bad sacks and a near interception where he missed Lorenzo Mauldin dropping into zone. But to see a 21 year old do some of the things Darnold did left me quite impressed and excited.
Leonard Williams was dominant: I would expect the best player on the team to dominate practices, but I had Williams record a sack and a pair of other tackles for a loss.
Trenton Cannon looks fast: These camp practices can be a bit deceptive at times because the offense has an edge. Most of the practices aren’t padded, and there is no contact. These things can make offensive players look better than they really are. With that said, Cannon’s speed stood out to me. There were plenty of other running backs who got the ball, and none of them popped out to me like the rookie.
Unfortunately, he did leave practice with a possible foot injury. Hopefully he is all right.
Dennard Wilson really coaches his guys up: The defensive backs just happened to be closest to me during team drills so perhaps I’m just showing too much favoritism to the guy I saw. The defensive backs coach was really drilling technique into his guys, though. He worked one on one with Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne on their jams. I even learned some things about cornerback technique from listening to him instruct his players during drills.
Taylor Bertolet looked good: I don’t know how much of a competition there really is at kicker, but by my count Bertolet was 6 of 7 in the kicking segment of practice with makes from 51 and 56 yards.
It was training camp: There were some sloppy moments. But you would expect that at camp. The whole point of camp is to work these things out. I counted at least six penalties. I also saw four incompletions that were at least partially due to timing or miscommunication. (A receiver came out of his break a little late to make a play on the ball; a quarterback and receiver aren’t on the same page on a sight adjustment, etc.) There is plently of time to work these things out.
We only care about quarterbacks. Which quarterback won the day, John? I probably would have said Bridgewater two-thirds of the way through the practice, but I thought Darnold’s finish was very strong as he bounced back from a shaky middle. Bridgewater didn’t make mistakes, but the plays and throws he made just didn’t seem as impressive or difficult as those Darnold made. I think you could make a case either way. My impression, however, is that Darnold wins every time he looks like he belongs. That certainly was the case on Monday.