Sam Darnold sparkled in his NFL debut, Teddy Bridgewater looked sharp and healthy, and the New York Jets earned the franchise’s first preseason home shutout by beating the sluggish Atlanta Falcons 17-0 on Friday night at East Rutherford, N.J.
Darnold, the No. 3 overall draft pick in April, was the Jets’ third quarterback of the game, following Josh McCown and Bridgewater. The former USC star was greeted by loud cheers and a standing ovation as he jogged onto the field at MetLife Stadium with 8:41 in the first half.
Darnold’s first series ended in a punt and his non-throwing left hand was checked out by trainers on the sideline after it was stepped on — but he was fine and wore a glove in the second half.
He got the crowd on its feet again just before halftime, throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson that gave New York a 17-0 lead.
The 21-year-old Darnold showed the poise of a veteran on the drive while completing six straight passes to get to the Falcons three-yard line. He would’ve had a seventh consecutive completion, but his throw into the end zone was dropped by Johnson. Darnold went right back to Johnson on the next play, and the receiver caught a three-yard pass for a TD — but was called for offensive pass interference. On third-and-14, Darnold again threw to Johnson while rolling to his right and zipping in a pass to his receiver for the score.
Darnold, who finished 13 of 18 for 96 yards, missed the first three days of training camp before his representatives and the Jets agreed on details of his fully guaranteed four-year, $30.25 million deal that included a $20 million signing bonus. He quickly made up for the missed time, and is being given every opportunity to win the starting job.
McCown is the incumbent and started the game, but played just one series — as he did last summer when New York wanted extended looks at Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. The 39-year-old veteran completed his only throw, a 4-yard toss to Neal Sterling.
Bridgewater came out with the starting offense for the Jets’ second possession and led New York down the field on a scoring drive, capped by Isaiah Crowell’s 16-yard catch-and-run to the end zone.
Crowell, in his first game with the Jets after four seasons in Cleveland, was evaluated for a head injury after taking a few hard hits on the play. He didn’t return.
Bridgewater, who suffered a serious knee injury in practice while with Minnesota nearly two years ago, converted a third-and-11 with an 8-yard pass to Robby Anderson — while also taking a hard hit from Takk McKinley and bouncing back up. On fourth-and-3 from the Falcons 40, Bridgewater connected with Jermaine Kearse for a 6-yard gain and a first down to keep the drive alive.
Playing with the backup offensive line on his second series, Bridgewater led New York on another scoring drive that was capped by Taylor Bertolet’s 45-yard field goal.
Bridgewater finished 7 of 8 for 85 yards and the TD.
Matt Ryan played just the first series for the Falcons, and completed his only attempt to rookie Calvin Ridley for a 2-yard loss. He was replaced by veteran Matt Schaub, who completed all nine of his passes for 54 yards while playing the rest of the first half.
Washington Redskins rookie running back Derrius Guice is out for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. Guice was injured in Washington’s preseason opener at New England on Thursday night. The team announced the prognosis Friday following an MRI, saying Guice should make a full recovery and be ready to play in 2019. …
Indianapolis Colts rookie receiver Deon Cain will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during Thursday’s preseason game at Seattle. … San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and backup running back Matt Breida both separated their shoulders in the exhibition opener and will miss the rest of the preseason.