FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Sam Darnold fumbled the first snap of team drills on his first two days in a Jets uniform, and he fumbled five snaps overall. That was eye-opening because he had some fumbling issues at USC that were a cause for concern for some.
But get over it. It was the first two days of an NFL career that likely will last more than a decade and he was working with a tryout center who's NFL career will likely be over by Sunday afternoon. In the bigger picture, there was a lot to like about the Jets' 20-year-old franchise quarterback who looked poised, accurate and showed off a strong arm throughout the weekend.
Don't overreact to that either, though. The overwhelming majority of players on the field for Jets rookie camp were here on a tryout and even the coaches weren't jumping to even small conclusions. Still, here are a few observations after two days of watching the newest Jets on the field:
-Darnold looks like an NFL quarterback. That's not insignificant either. Remember, Christian Hackenberg - a second-round pick - looked from the outset like he had a lot of work to do. And 14 years ago, Eli Manning looked absolutely lost in his first rookie camp practice. Darnold seemed poised. The Jets threw a lot at him, but he didn't look overwhelmed, and to his teammates he didn't seem overwhelmed either - not even when he was calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, which he basically never did at USC. There will be times when he will be overwhelmed, to be sure, but not on Day 1 or 2.
-Darnold appeared to have NFL tools. His arm seems stronger than advertised and he has a real nice touch on deep passes. He was mostly accurate over the two days. He also showed a nice ability to get out of trouble and make throws on the run.
-The NFL doesn't seem too big for Nathan Shepherd. If any rookie was going to be overwhelmed it was the former Canadian high school linebacker who missed a couple of years of football before resurfacing at Fort Hays (Kan.) State as a 300-pound defensive tackle. On the field it was hard to tell much since they weren't in full pads and he was battling tryout offensive linemen. But he seemed very quick and the coaches appeared to be impressed. He seemed pretty confident, too.
-Trenton Cannon is fast. The word most often used to describe the sixth-round running back out of Virginia State is "explosive" and that seems well-deserved. He appeared to have a terrific burst once the ball is in his hands. It's like he's shot out of a … well, you know the very apt cliché.
-Running backs coach Stump Mitchell isn't messing around. There was a lot of yelling from him, particularly on Day 1, and a lot of it was directed at undrafted free agent fullback Dmitri Flowers. From Oklahoma. That's probably a good thing for Flowers. He'll spend the summer battling Lawrence Thomas for the fullback job. If he didn't have a shot, Mitchell would more likely just ignore him.
-Quarterback John Wolford can play, just probably not here. Wolford, a tryout player out of Wake Forest, made a good impression at camp, according to a Jets source. He's a little smaller than Darnold, but his arm is just as strong and he seemed to match the No. 3 pick throw for throw. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him stick somewhere this season. The Jets' QB room is crowded, though. He's not likely to get an offer from a team that already has Darnold, Josh McCown, Hackenberg and Teddy Bridgewater.
-Hackenberg changed his throwing motion, and Todd Bowles didn't know. That's a little odd. Bowles knows now, but he hasn't seen enough from the former second-round pick to know if his offseason reconstruction has made any difference. As Bowles noted, though, the only thing that matters is "production".
-Jets practices could be fun. There was a little trash-talking between new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and Jets linebackers coach Kevin Greene. It seemed to be good-natured. And a little in-house competition is never a bad thing.
-Kacy Rodgers impressed his dad … um, his coach. The Jets weren't just being nice to defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers when they signed his son, Kacy Rodgers II. The former CFL defensive back made a few plays over the two days, including closing very fast on a receiver and nearly picking off a Darnold pass on Saturday afternoon. That play brought a huge smile to his dad's face and a knowing smile from Bowles, who said he totally understands what a special situation this is for the Rodgers' family. Whether it lasts remains to be seen, but it's fun for now.