Long after the final joint practice between the New York Jets and Washington Redskins wrapped up, the quarterbacks kept chatting.
Apart from the on-field workouts, those moments gave Alex Smith a chance to get to know Jets rookie Sam Darnold a little bit. But rather than dole out advice from one high draft pick to another after 12 NFL seasons, Washington’s veteran starter wants Darnold to chart his own path as a rookie.
“All these situations are different,” Smith said. “He’s got some good guys in his QB room to lean on that have played a lot of ball, so he certainly didn’t need to hear me tell him anything. I think my rookie year’s probably more of an example of what not to do as opposed to what to do.”
Before he can potentially earn the Jets’ starting job, Darnold could get the nod against Smith in the teams’ next preseason game Thursday night. Coach Todd Bowles would only say, “All of our quarterbacks need to be ready to play,” but Darnold took the majority of first-team snaps this week and impressed the Redskins.
Cornerback Josh Norman compared Darnold’s decision-making skills to Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz and Dallas’ Dak Prescott and found out firsthand that Darnold doesn’t throw like a rookie.
“This little kid is not mistakes and he’s really accurate,” Norman said. “It’s kind of like, dang. You get rookies in here, you’re trying to like mess with them and bait them a little bit into thinking that he was going to throw a route that you know you could make a play on, and he’s not having it. And it’s so crazy to see that at an early age.”
Fully aware of his early age, Darnold wants to be faster at calling plays and breaking the huddle. Bowles wants to see the USC product catch up on the playbook and knows the best experience comes from game action.
“He studies his playbook and he goes out and tries to execute on the field and he tries to learn, which is great,” Bowles said. “You can’t see growth until years pass by, to a degree. I’m not going to measure him day-by-day from a growth standpoint in three weeks.”
Smith doesn’t feel qualified to judge Darnold’s game cover to cover but liked what he saw at workouts this week.
“Just from afar, I thought he looked good,” Smith said. “He has a great skillset, can really throw it. He moves around well. I think he has good eyes.”
Darnold, the third overall pick, actually looks a lot like Smith after the 49ers took him first in the 2005 draft. But it’s not on Smith to tutor Darnold; that’s up to veteran Jets Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.
The 39-year-old McCown is competing with Darnold for the starting job but has nothing but nothing but positive early impressions.
“More than anything (he) does a good job of taking the classroom to the grass pretty efficiently. It doesn’t take him multiple meetings and walkthroughs and different things,” McCown said. “So far everything you look for to play the position, whether it’s just the desire and the want to and all that, all of those things are there and you have to have that in order to have a chance in this league.”
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