FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Just a few minutes after ending the first practice of the Sam Darnold Era, Todd Bowles began taking questions on his brand new Franchise Quarterback. The world wanted - and needed - to know: How did Darnold look on Day 1?
"He was great!" Bowles screamed as he pounded the podium in front of him. "I want him to play right now!"
OK, he was smiling and laughing as he said it, because over-analyzing a rookie quarterback on the first day of rookie camp is absurd. But there's no doubt Bowles was watching the Jets' prize pick in the NFL Draft pretty closely. And for the most part, he seemed to like what he saw.
"He was good," Bowles said, once he stopped laughing. "Obviously we threw the ball around a little bit. He'll be getting better."
That's really the best way to describe the first day of the 20-year-old Darnold's career: He was good with plenty of room to get better. The most obvious issue was the three snaps he fumbled - including on the first one he took in his first-team drill. He did throw one interception in a 7-on-7 drill. But for the most part, his passes were on target when he wasn't taking a sack behind the tryout-filled offensive line.
The performance, though, wasn't nearly as important as experience. As Bowles explained, this weekend's camp is all about getting Darnold - and the rest of the rookies - into the playbook, and getting them comfortable in their new system with their new team.
Bowles said he had no idea how fast Darnold would make the adjustment. "We'll see," he said. "It's only Day 1." But he did make it clear he has placed no limitations on Darnold's potential - and that includes the possibility he'll eventually emerge as the Jets' starter in Week 1.
"We're not holding him back," Bowles said. "We're not rushing him at the same time, but we're not holding him back at all."
There's a long way to go until he beats out veteran quarterback Josh McCown, of course. The rookie practice on Friday was only a taste of what Darnold could do. He seemed to throw nice, crisp passes and had a strong enough arm to get the ball deep. He also showed a nice ability to throw on the move, which was necessary working behind a terrible offensive line.
"It's Day 1, obviously, but he threw some good balls," Bowles said. "He threw balls he's got to be dusting rust off. On Day 1 you've got to expect that. But we're pleased with the way he threw the ball."
The fumbled snaps weren't so pleasing, especially since one of the few knocks on Darnold at USC was his ability to hold onto the football. He fumbled 11 times during his final season with the Trojans, causing some scouts to have a bit of concern over his apparently small (for a quarterback) hands.
So, when he fumbled the first snap and then two others, it certainly raised a few eyebrows. Then again, his center was Frank Sutton Jr., a rookie in camp on a tryout out of the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
"The center exchange, we'd rather have it happen today," Bowles said. "Then you build towards getting it better (instead of) it happening on Sunday, Week 1 and you lose a ball game over it. With all these new guys, you expect these kinds of mistakes."