The Daily Briefing Thursday, June 14, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

The World’s Oldest Cornerback may be moving to safety.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

Terence Newman has accomplished a lot in the defensive secondary during his career since entering the league out of Kansas State as the fifth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

 

The Minnesota Vikings veteran cornerback now appears ready to absorb another responsibility, but this time on the back end of coverage.

 

Newman took repetitions at safety during the team’s minicamp and his performance impressed defensive coordinator George Edwards.

 

“Terence has done a good a job,” Edwards said Wednesday, via the Vikings’ official website. “That’s a hat that he can wear, and we’re glad we’ve got him.”

 

Newman briefly played safety in 2015, and Wednesday’s move came after he swapped jersey numbers with safety Andrew Sendejo, who is sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

 

But being an established veteran in addition to his flexibility to play various positions in the secondary has helped Newman as one of the team’s elder statesman.

 

“That way, you’ve got to have that versatility in that room, that if somebody gets injured or something like that, the next guy’s gotta be up,” Edwards said, via the team’s website. “And he’s [a great example], especially for the young guys — ‘Hey, the more that you can do, the longer you’re going to be able to stick around and help us win football games.'”

 

Newman, who turns 40 in September, continues to prove throughout his accomplished career the more a player can do, the more his value rises.

 

Whether he is playing his natural position or helping out at safety, Newman’s importance to the Vikings defense and willingness to help out when called upon can’t be overlooked.

– – –

In a sad sign of the way the world is trending, the one essential a fan will need who hopes to attend a Vikings home game this year is a mobile phone with a charged battery.  Joseph Zucker of BleacherReport.com

 

 

The Minnesota Vikings are abandoning physical tickets for the 2018 season, the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling reported Wednesday.

 

Jeff Anderson, the Vikings’ executive communications director, told Goessling the switch from paper to electronic tickets will help the team “improve communications with fans before and during games.”

 

The Vikings also believe mobile ticketing will make it harder to produce counterfeits and provide the franchise with a better idea of who attends home games.

 

Despite the shift away from paper copies, fans can still sell their tickets on secondary markets if they choose to do so.

 

A number of teams have adopted similar policies, including the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons and, most recently, the Denver Broncos.

 

“With mobile, there are no more lost, stolen or forgotten tickets,” Broncos senior vice president of sales and marketing Dennis Moore told the Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala in February. “With mobile, you can log on to your account at any time, you can post them for sale, you can forward them and you can manage your account online.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

G ZACH MARTIN has his deal.  Todd Archer of ESPN.com:

 

The Dallas Cowboys and All-Pro right guard Zack Martin have agreed to a six-year extension worth $84 million, including $40 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

The deal, which runs through 2024, includes a $20 million signing bonus, a source told ESPN.

 

Martin skipped organized team activities without the security of the long-term contract, but he has attended the first two days of mandatory minicamp after progress was made last weekend in the negotiations.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Here’s why Philly fans love QB CARSON WENTZ.  He may be from North Dakota, but he’s all in with all the city’s teams.  Frank Schwab of Shutdown Corner:

 

It would take a heck of a player to knock Carson Wentz off his spot as Philadelphia’s favorite current athlete.

 

It would take someone like … well, LeBron James. Wentz is ready to do his part to make it happen.

 

James is set to become a free agent this offseason. When he does, the three biggest free agents in sports history would probably be, in some order: LeBron James in 2010, LeBron James in 2014, LeBron James in 2018. While there’s no shortage of speculation over which team will land James, every list includes the Philadelphia 76ers.

 

Wentz wants to help the 76ers get James, which really might be the most ambitious crossover event in history.

 

Wentz and Eagles teammate Zach Ertz were spotted at a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals game last week. The mania over LeBron’s upcoming free agency is already in full gear in many NBA cities, including Philadelphia, so it didn’t take much to fire up the fun idea that the two Eagles were going to convince LeBron to come back to Philly with them.

 

While imaginations were running wild, Wentz was asked after Eagles practice on Wednesday if he’d help the 76ers recruit James. The Eagles star quarterback sounded like he couldn’t wait to be asked.

 

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Wentz said (h/t to WIP’s John Barchard for the interview video). “I hope he’s coming.”

 

Wentz didn’t even downplay the notion that he and Ertz were there for that reason.

 

“Just seeing him live, we decided to make it a recruiting trip,” Wentz said.

 

Wentz said he didn’t get to speak with James — he was busy trying to take on the Warriors by himself — but that might not mean the trip was a bust.

 

“Hopefully he knows we were there,” Wentz said.

 

Could Wentz really sway James?

That Wentz seems to believe he could help get James to Philadelphia says all you need to know about the quarterback’s status there.

 

Wentz became an MVP candidate and the talk of his town in his second season. He tore his ACL and had to watch the Eagles win a Super Bowl without him, but missing the Super Bowl hardly dimmed his star power. He’s still a dynamic 25-year-old star. He’s set to own Philadelphia for the next decade. If he can help convince James to join the 76ers — Tom Brady couldn’t seal the deal when he was part of the Boston Celtics’ pitch to Kevin Durant — Wentz’s stature in Philadelphia would grow even more.

 

And it’s not like James is unaware of Wentz. There’s a mutual admiration.

 

Last November, as Wentz was setting the NFL on fire, James noted that even though he’s a fan of the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys, he had a new favorite football player.

 

“My favorite player right now is Carson Wentz,” James said. “I told my brother that early in the season that I just love the way he plays the game. The way that he’s able to get to progressions throughout the course of a three-step drop or a five-step drop, and if everything breaks down, his ability to run, get outside the pocket, either make passes or get yards with his feet.”

 

These are some crazy times in Philadelphia sports. The Eagles are defending Super Bowl champs for the first time ever. Villanova is the king of college basketball. The Phillies have shown signs of life with some young stars. And the 76ers’ process is coming around.

 

And if Wentz can help land James, a new chapter in Philly sports will begin.

 

The DB has been subjected to a lot of NBA Talk Radio lately and we understand the allure of the Lakers brand for James.  But it makes a lot of sense that he would want to stay in the East so that he can meet the Warriors in the Finals, not the Round of Eight.  We don’t profess to know the mechanics on the court, but the Sixers have a lot of young talent.  So it makes a lot of sense.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes the biggest NFL records that could be broken this year, and DREW BREES is in line for the biggest one:

 

Drew Brees said he wants to take this season one day, one week, one game at a time — and he wants to save the career reflections for sometime down the road.

 

But the New Orleans Saints quarterback knows he won’t be able to escape the attention as he approaches the NFL’s career passing yardage record, which he should eclipse at some point in October.

 

“Well, there’s a reason they put Week 5 on Monday night,” Brees said of the Saints’ Oct. 8 home date with the Washington Redskins. “I don’t think any of us are dummies.”

 

Brees needs 1,496 passing yards to break Peyton Manning’s record of 71,940, which means he’ll have to average 299.2 yards over the first five games to achieve that feat in front of a prime-time national audience.

 

That’s entirely possible considering that Brees, 39, has averaged 305.8 yards per game over the past 12 years in New Orleans. But he averaged only 270.9 yards per game last year while the Saints’ offense showed more balance. So we could have some mathematical drama heading into Week 5.

 

Ultimately, though, Manning’s record is going to crumble. And since Brees has talked about believing he can play at a high level until he is 45 years old, he might wind up shattering it.

 

Brees is still 51 touchdown passes shy of Manning’s mark of 539. So he’ll have to play at least two more years to break that one … assuming that 40-year-old Tom Brady, who is tied with Brees for third place at 488 touchdown passes, doesn’t play even longer.

 

“I try not to think about that,” Brees said last week of his record pace. “I’m just trying to think about obviously taking care of business one day at a time. Then when the season rolls around, you take it one week, one game at a time. Eventually those things add up, they stack up, then there you are in a position to do it.

 

“But there’s so many people that are a part of that. There’s so many things that come into play with that. I’d rather reflect on that stuff down the road.”

 

Brees, however, has shared a story in the past about how he used to marvel at the same kind of numbers he has been putting up throughout his historic 17-year career with the Saints and Chargers.

 

The first preseason game he ever played in 2001 was at Miami. Brees remembered looking up at the Dolphins’ ring of honor and seeing a list of Dan Marino’s career achievements.

 

“And you’re sitting there going, ‘How in the world do you play long enough or have the ability to do that?'” Brees recalled.

 

Now he knows.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

WR LARRY FITZGERALD has a limited goal.  Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com:

 

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn’t one to look at the big picture when it comes to his career.

 

So when asked Wednesday if the Cardinals’ stable situation at quarterback could have an affect on his future, Fitzgerald deferred.

 

“I’m just trying to get to February in one piece,” he said.

 

That despite the fact the Cardinals are in great shape at the most important position on the field. Sam Bradford will be the Cardinals’ starter this season and first-round pick Josh Rosen will be the franchise’s quarterback of the future. Fitzgerald said he wasn’t thinking about his career beyond this season.

 

Fitzgerald, who’ll be 35 when the season begins, has dealt with questions about his future for the past few years. This season will be no different.

 

First-year Cardinals coach Steve Wilks didn’t shy away from lobbying for Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Famer, to continue playing as long as he is able.

 

“I would love to have him back,” Wilks said. “I said earlier, next year, and maybe a year after that.”

 

This could be a historic season for Fitzgerald, who needs 390 yards to pass Terrell Owens for second on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list and 93 receptions to pass Tony Gonzalez for second on the all-time receptions list. Setting individual records, however, isn’t Fitzgerald’s priority this season.

 

“That’s always something you don’t like to talk about,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s never really in the framework of the team. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Like I always am, I take it all in stride.

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com takes the pulse of the 49ers:

 

Since Halloween night last year, the 49ers have followed a trajectory from winless to one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL. The storied franchise traded for Jimmy Garoppolo, then won five straight games once he became the starter, and then rewarded him with a five-year, $137.5 million contract—and the buzz continued to grow.

 

On a typically sun-soaked practice field for minicamp this week, though, this certainly didn’t feel like a team consumed by the hype. Two sloppy days of practice for the offense yielded two post-practice sessions in which Garoppolo stayed late for extra work with some of his teammates. On Tuesday the entire group stayed to work on issues with snap-count timing that had resulted in several false starts. On Wednesday the quarterback lingered on the field with two of his young targets after some failed drives in 11-on-11 team drills.

 

“What I like to see in Jimmy is just [going] through situations,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I like seeing him make mistakes. I like seeing him come in and work on it. I like seeing him when we get them in that same situation, the same coverage and the same looks, and I like seeing him correct what he messed up two days ago.”

 

It was exactly what you’d expect from a football team in June. If anything stood out, it was how ordinary the minicamp felt. Jimmy GQ may have taken the NFL by storm last November and December, but Niners have gone out of their way not to feed the hype machine (after making him, briefly, the highest-paid player in the NFL, of course).

 

At the same time, there’s no doubt that there is a different feeling around the 49ers than there’s been in years—that feeling of being settled and secure that a good marriage brings, with a head coach and GM operating as true partners, and a franchise quarterback in place who everybody believes in.

 

Former rival Richard Sherman, known as “Uncle Richard” in the locker room, returned to individual drills as he’s working his way back from his season-ending Achilles tear, and was vocally cheering on the defense from the sideline during team drills. Linebacker Reuben Foster was on the practice field after felony domestic violence charges were dropped by a judge when the accuser, his ex-girlfriend, testified she made up the allegations. Jerick McKinnon, the versatile former Vikings running back signed in free agency, had one of the best plays of minicamp for the offense when he exploded through the defense after a short pass from Garoppolo and took it some 70 yards for a TD.

 

This was the last official work of the offseason—after a family day in lieu of the final minicamp practice Thursday, the 49ers will break until training camp, though Garoppolo said he planned to try to organize some kind of summer throwing sessions with the skill position players.

 

“I think I’ve come a long way, especially from last season where I was just kind of cramming everything in,” Garoppolo said. “But, still a long way to go developing that chemistry between me and the skill positions, the O-Line, everything. It’s a work in progress every time.”

 

Shanahan said he was trying to look at some of the miscues from the offense before the summer dismissal as a good day for the defense. The other way to look at it is as a reminder that 5-0 wasn’t quite as easy as it looked at the time—a well-timed antidote for the offseason hype trap into which the team has been quite wary of falling.

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News on the possible return of TE ANTONIO GATES.

 

The Chargers have reached out to Antonio Gates, but whether or not a reunion is looming remains unclear.

 

General Manager Tom Telesco said during a Wednesday radio appearance that his team has been in contact with the future Hall of Fame tight end, a discussion that had been suggested but not confirmed for several weeks. Shortly after Hunter Henry’s tore his ACL last month, Telesco left open the possibility that Gates could return, but only in the sense that the team would “look at all the options that are out there.”

 

The Chargers had not commented specifically on any communication with Gates until this week.

 

“Obviously, Antonio would be a natural fit,” Telesco said on San Diego station 97.3 FM. “He’s someone that we have talked to. We’ve talked to his representatives. Sometimes, it’s not just as easy as saying, ‘Hey, let’s just bring him back. Let’s go.’”

 

After earning $5 million last season, Gates could very well be waiting for a similar offer, even though he will turn 38 years old in less than a week.

 

The 6-foot-4, 255-pound tight end certainly holds more leverage now than he did when the Chargers bid him a public farewell in late April, citing a need to increase Henry’s role in the offense. Although Gates set a career low with just 316 receiving yards last season, Henry’s season-ending injury mostly cleared the depth chart of any proven pass-catchers. (Henry returned to the sideline on Wednesday, watching practice on crutches two weeks after undergoing knee surgery.) Besides veteran Virgil Green, known more for his blocking prowess, none of the tight ends on the current roster has recorded a regular-season catch in the NFL.

 

The Chargers’ offseason program ends Thursday with the final day of minicamp, and the team reconvenes for training camp on July 28. Given Gates’ familiarity with the offense, a potential signing might not come until well into August.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

The Bengals aren’t sure what to expect from TE TYLER EIFERT.  Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:

 

The Bengals’ one-year gamble on oft-injured tight end Tyler Eifert is off to an inauspicious start this offseason.

 

Surprised by Eifert’s inability to take the field for this week’s minicamp, a frustrated Marvin Lewis acknowledged Wednesday that the status of the 2015 Pro Bowl selection is uncertain for the start of training camp this summer.

 

“My understanding is he did tweak his back just a little bit,” NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted on Wednesday’s edition of Inside Minicamp Live.

 

Lewis’ frustration with Eifert’s availability has been consistent throughout the team, per Rapoport. When the Bengals brought him back on a one-year deal, the hope was that he would be fully healthy and in prime condition for a bounce-back season that would earn him a lucrative long-term deal in 2019.

 

Plagued by a troublesome back injury that necessitated a third surgery, Eifert managed to play just two games last season. Through five NFL seasons, he’s missed more regular-season games (41) than he’s played (39).

 

When he’s healthy enough to take the field, Eifert is a difference-maker for Cincinnati, providing quarterback Andy Dalton with one of the premier red-zone weapons in the league.

 

In Eifert and speedy second-year deep threat John Ross, the Bengals have a pair of wild cards capable of swinging their season. For Lewis’ sake, he better hope Eifert is ready to roll by August.

 

 

CLEVELAND

Now in Cleveland, WR JARVIS LANDRY doubles down on his criticism of his previous QB – and yes, he was referring to RYAN TANNEHILL, not Jay Cutler.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

When new Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry told reporters last week Cleveland’s quarterback situation is “a lot better” that what he had with Ryan Tannehill in Miami, he wasn’t mincing his words, and he wasn’t kidding.

 

Landry doubled down on his assessment of his former Dolphins quarterback when speaking with NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano and Aditi Kinkhabwala in an interview that aired on Wednesday’s Inside Minicamp Live.

 

“I’m not surprised,” Landry said when asked why he had not heard from Tannehill since his departure. “We didn’t really have a good relationship anyway, so I’m not surprised.”

 

Landry continued: “I wasn’t trying to look back in the rearview mirror, you know. I’m focused on here and where we’re taking it here. I wasn’t trying to take a shot at him. I understand how hard every guy in this NFL works, especially at the position, especially at the quarterback position. But at the same time too… I give credit where credit is due.”

 

Landry played alongside Tannehill for his first three seasons in Miami during which he tallied 288 receptions, a record matched only by Landry’s BFF, Giants wideout Odell Beckham. In Landry’s one season without Tannehill, who was sidelined with a knee injury, the receiver caught a personal-record 112 balls, but averaged a career-low 8.8 yards per reception.

 

Now with Tyrod Taylor in Cleveland, Landry told NFL Network that there’s a better sense of camaraderie in Berea than he ever felt in Miami.

 

This isn’t the first bold boast Landry has produced this week. On Tuesday, he seconded Josh Gordon’s claim that Cleveland had the best receiving corps in the NFL, telling reporters, “He ain’t lying.”

 

Landry is free to speak his mind in Cleveland, far away from his former Dolphins teammates, who are entering a critical season with a healthy Tannehill and third-year coach Adam Gase at the helm. But it’s up to Tannehill to escalate this one-sided war of words.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

QB DESHAUN WATSON says he is doing fine.  Mike Chiari of Bleacher Report:

 

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson said Wednesday that he is on schedule with his recovery from a torn ACL suffered last season.

 

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Watson suggested that he’s pleased with his progress: “I’m not really surprised. I kind of knew where I was going to be because I put the time in, the work in every morning. I’ve just been grinding. I’m right where I need to be and where I want to be.”

 

Watson is no longer wearing a brace or a sleeve on his surgically repaired right knee, which suggests he is moving in the right direction.

 

Per McClain, Watson hasn’t taken part in 11-on-11 drills yet, but he has done everything else during OTAs and minicamp at a high level.

 

Watson added that he believes he is ahead of the game in several areas: “The knee is doing good. For the nine-week goal we put in from the beginning [of the offseason program], I’m pretty much where I wanted to be. Kind of passed it inside in the weight room, mentally and also on the field, so everything’s going smoothly right now.”

 

He suffered the knee injury at the end of October, meaning he will have nearly 10 months of recovery under his belt when the 2018 regular season begins in September.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

PK ADAM VINATIERRI could become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer this season.  Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:

 

Another all-time great should put an exclamation point on his Hall of Fame résumé this year. Kicker Adam Vinatieri needs 58 points to break Morten Andersen’s NFL record of 2,544 career points.

 

Vinatieri, 45, should accomplish the feat around midseason, since he has averaged 111 points per season when healthy during his remarkable 22-year career with the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots.

 

“A dozen years ago I thought nobody’s ever coming close to that [record],” Vinatieri told Colts.com after he re-signed with the team as a free agent in February. “And the fun thing is I’ve never lost a love of the game. I love it as much as I did when I first got into the league. It’s just a blessing to be able to play 23 years. And so if that record happens — it better — but if it does, I’m going to be jacked up and extremely happy.”

 

It’s also possible that Vinatieri could wind up breaking George Blanda’s record as the oldest player to ever play in the NFL (48 years, 109 days). But Vinatieri told reporters he’s “less concerned about that one” for now.

 

“I’m not putting anything out of reach,” Vinatieri said in February. “I’m not looking and saying, ‘No way.’ I just want to help our team be as productive as possible this year and if everything works out well, we’ll be having this conversation again next year.”

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

Rookie LB JEROME BAKER has made quite the impression in Dolphins camp.  Jason Lieser in the Palm Beach Post:

 

There’s a lot of pressure on the Dolphins’ rookies right now between trying to learn the playbook and adjusting to everything else that comes with playing in the NFL.

 

One challenge is tempering their enthusiasm during offseason practices that allow for minimal contact. Linebacker Jerome Baker, a third-round pick, said it hasn’t been easy to restrain himself and pull back at the last second from hitting someone.

 

“Sometimes it’s hard when you’re running full speed,” he said. “It’s a regular play, you just run through them. But we’re pros now. You just got to take care of each other. It’s pretty cool.”

 

It’s been a significant change for Baker from Ohio State, where the coaches apparently didn’t discourage contact. When the Dolphins held a walk-through last week, it was much more low-key than what he was used to.

 

Dolphins defensive players have occasionally been scolded for getting too physical in offseason practices, or for getting too close to the quarterback, and Baker’s already heard it from some veterans.

 

“I have players be like, ‘Alright, calm down,’” he said. “Especially at walk-throughs. Even in college, it was a full — We were going hard. You just weren’t hitting anybody. Here, the walk-throughs are a little toned down, but I was still in my college mind of going hard and sometimes it gets you in trouble a little bit. But it’s all good.”

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Bill Belichick shortened OTAs and gave a history lesson instead.  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

Before Bill Belichick canceled the New England Patriots’ final two voluntary organized team activities this week, he transformed parts of Gillette Stadium into a real-life “Back to the Future” movie.

 

Specifically, Belichick made Tuesday a wide-ranging history lesson on the roots of football, essentially creating an environment in which players were going back in time. That, of course, meant that there were leather helmets on the practice field, digital clocks covered up in the team meeting room, black-and-white recordings of old football plays shown, and a no-frills lunch menu that resembled what players in the 1930s and 1940s might have eaten (e.g., hamburgers and hot dogs rather than sushi).

 

“It was a lot of fun. We walked in and you could tell something different was going on than the normal practice day,” explained one player.

 

The 66-year-old Belichick, who had surprised many on the team the day before by taking the team to Fenway Park, has a well-documented appreciation for the history of the game. Now in his 19th year as head coach, he has been likened by some players over the years to a professor because of his teaching-based approach.

 

“The thing I’ve learned about Coach Belichick is that he loves history, loves the military, and any time he can incorporate teaching us about that, he loves to do it,” said one player who took part in Tuesday’s turn-back-the-clock day.

 

“It was cool for him to get a chance to teach us about the sport that we’re in, the National Football League and kind of how it started. We got to watch some old clips from football back then — the ’30s and ’40s — that I had never seen before. I didn’t know what type of offenses were run, so it was really neat to see. We even looked at high school football back then, all the way up to NFL.”

 

The discussion, with players in the room as young as 21 and coaches as old as 70, went beyond football.

 

“You think about it, if it was at a certain time back then, a lot of us wouldn’t be playing. We would have been drafted and fighting for our country [in World War II],” said a player. “When we do stuff like that, it’s special.”

 

Earlier in the offseason program, Belichick surprised players by having Kobe Bryant speak to them, and Bryant watched the team practice that day. That was another highlight of what one member of the organization felt was a good offseason for the team, extending beyond the team’s official offseason program.

 

Belichick told reporters multiple times throughout the spring that the overarching goal was to teach the team’s system and give players the best chance to be ready for the start of training camp in late July. That includes team bonding, so while there was significant media spotlight on quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski not attending voluntary workouts, there were still positive steps taken in that area.

 

On Tuesday, owner Robert Kraft touched on the decision to cancel the final two OTAs, saying, “Part of that is that there were great things that happened last week, having everyone here, and then [Monday] they had a team-building activity that was really good.”

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Considering that the last rookie QB the Jets have to compare him to is the hapless Christian Hackenberg, now a resident in good standing of Bustville, it is no surprise that first rounder SAM DARNOLD is looking good to green-shaded eyes.  Ethan Sears in the New York Post:

 

There’s hearing, and then there’s seeing.

 

Especially early in the football calendar, platitudes can fall on deaf ears. Especially when it comes to hyped quarterback prospects, like Sam Darnold, on a team that hasn’t had many of late, like the Jets.

 

“Every day I feel like he goes out and gets better,” Josh McCown said of this year’s third-overall pick, before the Jets opened practice Tuesday. “I think for all of us, but really for young players, you’re discovering something new every time you step on the field.”

 

Then during practice, Darnold did just that. His initial reps were underwhelming at best, missing open receivers and seeing one ball go off Parry Nickerson’s hands. Then he settled in and started to make it look easy.

 

It’s one practice, in June, without contact, but it’s progress nonetheless.

 

“He made some throws,” coach Todd Bowles said. “Shorts and T-shirt, you can’t tell whether the ball would’ve been broken up or he’d been sacked or not, but his learning is outstanding.”

 

Whether the USC product starts on opening day will remain in question. None of the Jets’ quarterbacks have separated themselves this early, but competing with McCown and Teddy Bridgewater holds its advantages for Darnold.

 

“I think it kind of takes off a lot of pressure on him, at least from a team standpoint,” wide receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “If he comes into a team where it’s like the Browns … you bring a first-round pick in there or a high-round pick, you expect that guy to play. Here, you know, I don’t know what the idea is with the coaches, but for us, we just wanna see him progress and earn his way on the field.”

 

Darnold himself is in the midst of the adjustment, which he readily admits. The throwing windows are tighter, the verbiage is different, and he’s working under center more often.

 

He won’t get used to all of that in 11 practices. But he already is getting better.