Aug 21, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jets, Panthers have QBs in the spotlight for opener

Sam Darnold has been upstaged at times during his NFL career.

The new quarterback for the Carolina Panthers might be falling into that category again going into the season opener against the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, N.C.

That’s because Darnold’s replacement with the Jets is Zach Wilson, who’ll make his pro debut after being selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 draft.

The Panthers acquired Darnold, who played his first three seasons with the Jets, during an offseason move. That resulted in the departure of Teddy Bridgewater, who spent one season with Carolina.

“With Sam, it’s a new beginning,” said Panthers receiver Robby Anderson, a sixth-year pro who spent his first four seasons with the Jets. “Lots of time, new beginnings is what a lot of us need. Turning that page to a new chapter.”

For Wilson, it might be even more special as he makes the leap from BYU to Jets starter as one of the team’s captains.

“For Zach, it’s about him and his process and it’s about him getting ready to play the best he possibly can,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said, noting this shouldn’t be a case of judging Wilson vs. Darnold.

There’s plenty new in this matchup.

Saleh makes his NFL coaching debut with the Jets after arriving from the San Francisco 49ers staff.

“I’m sure I’ll be as amped up as all heck on Sunday,” said Saleh, who was San Francisco’s defensive coordinator.

Matt Rhule is in his second season with Carolina after a 5-11 record in 2020, and, with the Jets’ new coaching staff and rookie QB, he’s facing a challenge.

“We have to prepare for everything right now,” Rhule said. “We’re preparing for a lot of different looks, a lot of different personnel. There are just so many unknowns.”

Even with the attention Wilson is receiving, the Jets could be stout on the other side despite a young defensive backfield.

“They are put together really well defensively,” Rhule said.

With a more conventional offseason, the Panthers should be much more comfortable in establishing what they want to do going into this season.

“It’s night and day from last year,” Rhule said. “We have a much more collective sense of how we want to win, how we want to do things. I think we’re way farther ahead. How much that is, we’ll see on Sunday.”

It’s also the return in many ways of versatile Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who was one of the most productive players in the league in 2019. Last season, he appeared in just three games because of injuries. McCaffrey racked up 97 yards of total offense against the Jets as a rookie in 2017.

“To have him, I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Rhule said. “We’re excited to get him back involved.”

The Panthers also have turned to Ryan Santoso, a former New York Giant, as the kicker, replacing Joey Slye, who became too inconsistent to keep.

The Jets are waiting on word regarding the status of receiver Jamison Crowder, who remained in COVID protocol Wednesday.

With all the roster adjustments for both teams, it’s time to see how they stack up.

“It’s the real season now, real games,” Anderson said. “Play time is over with.”

The Panthers are 4-3 all-time against the Jets, winning three of four home games. Carolina’s first victory in franchise history came against the Jets in its first season in 1995 when home games were played in Clemson, S.C.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) looks to pass in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos acquire QB Teddy Bridgewater from Panthers

The Denver Broncos acquired quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Per the NFL Network, the Panthers will pay $7 million and the Broncos will pony up $3 million as part of the restructured contract to finalize the deal.

Bridgewater, 28, will vie for the Broncos’ starting job with Drew Lock. Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel are also in the quarterback room.

“Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room,” Broncos general manager George Paton said in a statement. “He’s a talented player and leader who’s had success in this league in a number of different situations. Being familiar with Teddy from Minnesota, he’s going to compete and do everything he can to help us win.”

Denver has the No. 9 pick in the draft, which begins on Thursday.

The Panthers reportedly informed Bridgewater earlier this month that he can seek a trade following the team’s acquisition of quarterback Sam Darnold from the New York Jets. Carolina also has quarterbacks Will Grier, P.J. Walker and Tommy Stevens on its roster.

A former first-round pick, Bridgewater signed a three-year, $63 million deal with Carolina in March 2020 and started 15 games for the Panthers. He threw for 3,733 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for the Panthers, who went 4-11 in those games.

The Panthers hold the eighth overall pick in the draft Thursday.

Bridgewater has thrown for 11,385 yards with 53 touchdowns against 36 interceptions in 59 career games with the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Panthers. He has also rushed for 713 yards and nine touchdowns.

Lock, 24, is 8-10 as a starter through two seasons, completing 59.1 percent of his passes for 3,953 yards with 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) looks to pass against the New England Patriots during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Darnold on Panthers: ‘I’m excited to get here’

Sam Darnold arrived in Charlotte on Sunday, and the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers is ready to get to work for his new employer.

And with Darnold came some reflection about his three seasons with the New York Jets and a bunch of optimism about what lies ahead.

“There’s a little bit of both — relief and excitement,” Darnold said. “There’s been so much uncertainty this offseason, not knowing what your future was going to look like, that was hard.

“But now that I’m in Charlotte, I’m excited, and yeah, I guess I am kind of relieved to be here.”

The Jets selected Darnold with the No. 3 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Between injuries and illness, coaching changes and ineptness with the Jets offense, his tenure as the face of the franchise lasted just three seasons.

The Jets have the No. 2 selection in the upcoming NFL draft and are expected to select former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson.

So that leaves Darnold, still just 23, to start over. And he said he’s glad to be doing it with the Panthers in an offense led by coach Matt Rhule and coordinator Joe Brady and anchored by All-Pro Christian McCaffrey.

“The culture that’s being set here is amazing,” Darnold said. “That’s probably the part that intrigues me the most about this.”

He’s scheduled for his first day in the Carolina facility on Monday, and he understands the opportunities that lie ahead for him.

“To go from being unwanted to being wanted is huge,” Darnold told the team website.

“Getting that news that you’re going to be traded, of a team saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t want you,” for whatever reason, is hard.

“But right now, I feel great about it, and I’m excited to get here, and get started.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 22, 2020; Boca Raton, Florida, USA; Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) scrambles with the ball against the UCF Knights during the first half at FAU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

GM: ‘Fair assessment’ Jets want QB at No. 2

Connecting the dots on the Sam Darnold trade implies the New York Jets are once again starting over at the quarterback position.

General manager Joe Douglas did nothing to debunk that theory on Tuesday while discussing the team’s deal with the Carolina Panthers.

“I think that’s a fair assessment based on the decision we made (Monday), you can kind of see the direction we’re heading,” Douglas said Tuesday. “When it comes to (trading) pick 2 … obviously never say never. As I’ve said to you guys in the past, I’ll always answer the phone if it’s ringing.”

New York has multiple first-round picks and three of the top 35 picks in the 2021 draft, but a reset at quarterback is the headline news for the Jets.

Darnold, picked third overall in 2018 by then-GM Mike Maccagnan, is expected to be replaced by BYU’s Zach Wilson. Wilson is the presumptive No. 2 pick after a breakout junior season and widely projected to be a top-five pick.

The uncertainty around the Jets’ direction melted away with the Darnold move and the likelihood of quarterbacks being the top two picks increased. Jacksonville holds the No. 1 pick and is locked in on Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

Taking a quarterback in the top four for the second time in four years is unprecedented. No team has done it in the modern draft era (since 1967).

Douglas said if the Jets were drafting “a little later” in the first round, holding onto Darnold would have been a serious consideration. He’s owed $23.6 million over the next two seasons as part of his rookie contract.

“We felt ultimately at the end of the day this was an opportunity to hit the reset button financially, so to speak,” Douglas said.

Wilson would become the Jets’ fifth quarterback drafted in the first two rounds since 2009, including Darnold, Christian Hackenberg, Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez.

With the exception of the most recent selections of defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (2019) and offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, the Jets have either released or traded every first-round pick since 2013 before they reached a second contract.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws the ball against the New England Patriots during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Jets trade Sam Darnold to Panthers

The New York Jets traded quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers on Monday in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and second- and fourth-round selections in 2022.

The Jets hold the No. 2 overall pick in this month’s draft. They are expected to take a quarterback, whether it be BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Alabama’s Mac Jones.

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is projected to be taken with the top overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets,” general manager Joe Douglas said. “He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet. While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”

The move to acquire Darnold puts fellow quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s status in question with the Panthers.

Bridgewater, 28, threw for 3,733 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 games last season, his first with Carolina. He also rushed for 279 yards with five scores.

With the Jets, Darnold had ups, downs, injuries and illnesses since being selected with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Darnold, 23, showed modest improvement from his rookie year to his second season. His touchdown total improved from 17 to 19, his interception total dropped from 15 to 13 and he completed a higher percentage of his passes (57.7 percent in 2018, 61.9 percent in 2019).

But in 2020, Darnold threw for a career-low 2,208 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games (all starts). He completed 59.6 percent of his passes and was intercepted 11 times.

Darnold has thrown for 8,097 yards with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in 38 games (all starts) in his first three NFL seasons.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) on the bench against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jets GM says he will listen to calls on QB Sam Darnold

New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas admitted Wednesday that he is open to listening to trade offers involving quarterback Sam Darnold.

“I will answer the call if it’s made,” Douglas said.

That position is of stark contrast to the call Douglas made last season on Darnold, who has struggled to get up to speed since being selected by the Jets with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Darnold, 23, showed modest improvement from his rookie year to his second season. His touchdown total improved from 17 to 19, his interception total dropped from 15 to 13 and he completed a higher percentage of his passes (57.7 percent in 2018, 61.9 percent in 2019).

But in 2020, Darnold threw for a career-low 2,208 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games (all starts). He completed 59.6 percent of his passes and was intercepted 11 times.

Darnold has thrown for 8,097 yards with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in 38 games (all starts) in his first three NFL seasons.

“As it pertains to Sam, we think Sam is a dynamic player in this league with unbelievable talent,” Douglas said. “He really has a chance to hit his outstanding potential moving forward. But, you know, like I said earlier, if calls are made, I will answer.”

So what are the Jets’ options? They can stay the course with Darnold, select his replacement with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft or even throw their hat in the ring toward chasing disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are trendy picks being mentioned as the second quarterback off the board in the upcoming draft. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is expected to be taken with the top overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“We’re gathering as much information as we possibly can, especially as it pertains not only in free agency, but in this year’s draft class,” Douglas said.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) walks alone on the sidelines during the second half of their loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jets GM Joe Douglas prioritizing coaching hire before QB decision

New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas said Tuesday the franchise must hire its next head coach before determining the future for quarterback Sam Darnold with the Jets.

The Jets fired coach Adam Gase on Sunday after finishing the 2020 season 2-14.

“Look, we’ve got a lot of decisions to make. I think Sam’s going to be a great quarterback. I’m excited to get a head coach in here, go through our process,” Douglas said . “I had a great conversation with Sam yesterday.

“I won’t go into the specifics, but I think Sam has a very bright future in this league. We’re going to get a head coach in here, we’re going to get together, we’re going to talk about quite a few decisions. I’m excited about Sam.”

Darnold, 23, has been adamant about wanting to remain with the Jets, reiterating this week that he wants “to be a Jet for life.” But obviously his performance has put his ability to carry a franchise in the league’s biggest media market into question.

Picked third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, Darnold threw for a career-low 2,208 yards this season in 12 games (all starts). His nine touchdown passes were also the fewest of his three-year career.

When a team finishes the season with the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft, it has a lot more problems other than its quarterback. And Douglas expressed sympathy for Darnold.

“I think Sam faced a lot of obstacles this year, as did everybody, dealing obviously with COVID and frankly, we had quite a few injuries, on the offensive line, at the wide receiver position,” Douglas said. “I think it was hard for our offense in general to really build the kind of sustained chemistry to create success throughout the year.”

Darnold has thrown for 8,097 yards and 45 touchdowns in 38 games (all starts) in his first three NFL seasons. The Jets are 13-35 in that span.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) celebrates with wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (11) after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets in the first half of a NFL game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders rally for victory over winless Jets

Derek Carr threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to rookie Henry Ruggs III with five seconds remaining to rally the Las Vegas Raiders to a 31-28 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, N.J.

Ruggs, whose fumble earlier in the fourth quarter set up the go-ahead score for New York (0-12), ran past cornerback Lamar Jackson on a stop-and-go route up the left sideline for the game-winner and hand the Jets a franchise record-tying 12th consecutive loss. The Jets also lost 12 in a row from Dec. 3, 1995 to Oct. 20, 1996.

Tight end Darren Waller caught 13 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, with Carr throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another score as the Raiders (7-5) snapped a two-game losing streak.

Defensive end Clelin Ferrell, back after missing two games with COVID-19, had a pair of strip-sacks to go along six tackles and Trayvon Mullen added a one-handed interception for Las Vegas.

Sam Darnold was 14-of-23 passing for 186 yards and two touchdowns but lost two fumbles and also threw an interception for the Jets, who lost starting running back Frank Gore on the second offensive play of the game to a concussion. Ty Johnson finished with 104 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and Jamison Crowder caught five passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns.

Trailing 24-13 in the fourth quarter, the Jets cut it to 24-21 with 10:22 left on Darnold’s 4-yard run off right tackle and a two-point conversion from Darnold to Denzel Mims. New York got the ball back three plays later when Javelin Guidry forced a Ruggs fumble and Marcus Maye recovered at the Las Vegas 44. Six plays later, Johnson scored on a 1-yard run up the middle to give the Jets a 28-24 lead.

New York appeared to seal the win when Carr underthrew Nelson Agholor in the end zone on fourth-and-3 at the Jets’ 9-yard line with 1:42 remaining. But the Raiders got the ball back on their own 39 with 25 seconds left and no timeouts after forcing a three-and-out. Three plays later, Carr hit Ruggs for the game-winner.

–Field Level Media

Dec 8, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) talks to head coach Adam Gase during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Gase admits he’s failed to aid Darnold in development

New York Jets coach Adam Gase said Thursday that the team hasn’t done enough in the development of third-year quarterback Sam Darnold.

Darnold was selected by the Jets with the third overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Gase joined the Jets ahead of the 2019 season, and the team has posted a 7-20 record under his watch — including an 0-11 start to this season.

“I came here to help him, help him develop his career, and we haven’t been able to do that,” Gase said of Darnold, who was the second quarterback taken behind top overall pick Baker Mayfield (Cleveland) in that draft.

Darnold, 23, showed modest improvement from his rookie year to his second season. His touchdown total improved from 17 to 19, his interception total dropped from 15 to 13 and he completed a higher percentage of his passes (57.7 percent in 2018, 61.9 percent in 2019).

This season has been an unmitigated disaster for the winless Jets. Darnold has thrown for just 1,242 yards with three touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games. He returned from a shoulder injury to throw for 197 yards and two picks in last Sunday’s 20-3 setback to Miami, Gase’s former team.

Darnold hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since connecting with Braxton Berrios on a 16-yard scoring strike in New York’s 36-7 setback to Indianapolis on Sept. 27. Darnold’s 64.0 passer rating is the worst among qualifying quarterbacks.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Gase said of the touchdown drought. “For him personally, I’m sure he’s bothered by it, knowing things like that.

“I look at it as we’ve got to do a better job as a staff. We’ve got to put these guys in the best position possible, and those guys have to go execute. It’s on all of us. We have to find a way to do a better job. We have to find a way to put the ball in the end zone.”

New York is in line to select first in the 2021 NFL Draft, with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields the presumptive top two picks.

Gase, Darnold and the Jets look for better results on Sunday when they host the Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) in East Rutherford, N.J.

“We need to do things well around him, but at the same time, it’s on me to get him to play better than what he’s played,” Gase said. “I haven’t done a good enough job.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 1, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold  (14) against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Jets QB Darnold to start Sunday against Dolphins

New York Jets coach Adam Gase said quarterback Sam Darnold will start on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins barring any setbacks in practice Friday.

Darnold has missed four starts (Weeks 5, 6, 9 and 11) since suffering a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder in a Week 4 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Darnold, 23, has completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,045 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions in six starts this season.

Backup Joe Flacco, 35, has completed 55.2 percent of his throws for 864 yards with six TDs and three picks in five games (four starts).

The winless Jets (0-10) will have a full complement of healthy wide receivers for Sunday afternoon’s AFC East game against the Dolphins (6-4) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

If Darnold plays, it will be the first time this season he has been on the field with Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder.

–Field Level Media