LANDOVER, Md. - Sam Darnold got a lot of work with the Jets' first-team offense this week, and might even start their preseason game against the Redskins on Thursday night. Maybe that's just Todd Bowles' way of getting him ready.
Or maybe it's a sign that he already is.
Bowles, of course, isn't saying. But it sure is starting to feel like nothing will stop the Sam Darnold Era from beginning with the Jets' first regular-season game on Sept. 10. Maybe it's not fair to rule out Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater just yet.
Regardless, here's a look at where all three quarterbacks stand, and what they have to do to win the Opening Day job:
The incumbent: Josh McCown
If McCown weren't 39 years old and in his 17th NFL season, he might take this personally. He threw one pass in the Jets' preseason opener and played only one series. Then, he gave up more first-team practice snaps, and he probably won't see much action in the second preseason game, if he plays at all.
That's no way to really compete for a job.
"I can get a fair evaluation of Josh," Bowles insisted. "I've seen him quite a bit."
True, McCown barely played last preseason and still had a terrific year for the Jets. But he wasn't fighting off any real challengers - certainly not a first-round pick.
But that's just the way it is. McCown is not going to get much of a shot to prove to the Jets he's better than Darnold and Bridgewater. The Jets feel they know who and what he is, and they don't think that at 39 anything is changing.
So the decision isn't about him. It's about if the Jets feel Bridgewater is better, or if Darnold is ready. If the answers to both of those questions are "No," they will fallback to McCown.
He understands that and accepts a seemingly raw deal.
"I understand that evaluations have to take place," McCown said. "And I have been doing this a while (and) obviously played a number of games for (Bowles) last year, so I think they have a pretty good handle on who I am as a player and what they expect from me.
"Whatever they decide I understand completely. Whatever coach decides we will roll with that and be supportive 100 percent."
The future: Sam Darnold
By this time next week, Darnold may be the de facto starter. All he has to do is follow up his impressive debut with a solid game against the Redskins, particularly when he's in with the first team. Because this much is clear: Many in the Jets organization want Darnold to win the job. He is the future, so why not get a head start on it now?
That's why Bowles - who deep down may feel more comfortable starting with an experienced quarterback - is getting Darnold so much first-team work. That's where the best chance to evaluate him will come.
"I think working with the first team just gets me more comfortable with those guys and I think they get more comfortable with me and the way that I like to play," Darnold said. That's important, because if the Jets do go with Darnold the veteran players on the team need to trust him. They need to believe Darnold gives them the best chance to win.
With McCown's track record and the way Bridgewater is performing this summer, that would've been a tough sell if Darnold hadn't been just as good.
"My early impressions of Sam are that everything we have asked him to do, that we get asked to do as quarterbacks," McCown said. "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. He is very coachable in that aspect and I think that will serve him well for a long time."
The sleeper: Teddy Bridgewater
As impressive as Darnold was in the first preseason game, people in the Jets organization seemed to be talking about Bridgewater just as much. It wasn't a lot of action, but he showed flashes of what made him a first-round pick and former Pro Bowler before his injury.
Bowles, though, doesn't seem inclined to give him much more of an opportunity than he's given to McCown. When asked about his quarterback playing time, he noted that he's seen plenty of McCown and Bridgewater, and that Darnold is the one who needs to "catch up." That sounds like Darnold will get the majority of the action the rest of the way as the Jets try to get him ready.
So where does that leave Bridgewater? Like McCown, he's in limbo. This is Darnold's game, and if he plays well, he'll win the job. If not, that's where Bridgewater could sneak in.
Most likely, Bowles would turn back to McCown who played so well last season. But Bridgewater "intrigues" Bowles, according to a team source, and he knows the 25-year-old has a higher ceiling than McCown. That could play a part in the decision.
But that's only if Darnold stumbles. So far, there's no evidence that he will.