By Brad Carroll
Here are three storyline to follow as the New York Jets take on the Washington Redskins in Week 2 of the preseason Thursday night.
Sam Darnold, Part II
Part I of the Sam Darnold preseason tour was a rousing success, as the rookie completed 13-of-18 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Atlanta Falcons. Now it’s time for the encore, as the Jets take on the Redskins Thursday night in the team’s second preseason game. While coach Todd Bowles will keep his starting quarterback a secret heading into the game, if you go by last preseason, where Christian Hackenberg was the surprise starter in Week 2, there is a solid chance Darnold gets the start here. It might not work out that way, as Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater both could go in before Darnold for the second week in a row, but if the Jets are serious about having the USC rookie prove he can be the regular season Week 1 starter, he should get the nod. As excited as Jets fans were after watching Darnold play last week, they should be even more excited after his performance against the Redskins in joint practice this week, where he took another step in gaining control of the starting job, playing more like a veteran than rookie. If he doesn’t start, Darnold entering the game and playing will be still be everything Jets fans care about. Building on his momentum will be paramount if he wants to win the starting job.
Which Running Back Will Emerge
Former Browns running back Isaiah Crowell had a short debut with the Jets last week, rushing twice for six yards and catching a 16-yard touchdown pass, and it looks like he's not going to get a further chance to prove himself tonight, as he's not expected to play. Crowell, the heavy favorite to be the featured back ahead of Bilal Powell, could give Jets fans hope they can have an established running game this season with a clear-cut starter. That’s especially important if the Jets go with Darnold as the team’s starting quarterback in Week 1. But tonight will be all about Powell, Trenton Cannon and Thomas Rawls, as they should get several opportunities to prove they deserve a chance to start (Powell) or a spot on the final roster (Cannon and Rawls). It will especially be interesting to see what Rawls can do on the field. Rawls had some success with the Seahawks but needs a big preseason to make the team.
The Rookie And Leggett
Second-year tight end Jordan Leggett will look to prove he can be a big part of the offense this season. Leggett had a lost season a year ago, but has the ability to be a factor in the passing game. He could use a big game to keep himself ahead of rookie tight end Chris Herndon, who has been dealing with injuries and isn't likely to play tonight. The Jets haven’t had a presence at tight end since Dustin Keller, so the emergence of Leggett would be huge for the Jets this season and for years to come. One rookie who could make an immediate impact is defensive end Nathan Shepherd. The Jets need a defensive lineman who can get to the quarterback in the worst way, and Shepherd could be that guy. He’ll get another chance to show what he’s got against Washington. Last week, the Fort Hays State product had two tackles and some nice plays against the Falcons.