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Bates: Darnold Has Been 'Excellent'

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When asked if he thought rookie quarterback Sam Darnold had the potential to start for the Jets in Week 1, Green & White offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates (who doubles as the team’s QB coach) elected to focus on the strength of his entire passing stable.

“Right now, you know it is still spring training. We (have) three great quarterbacks,” Bates said. “That's really exciting. It’s a real exciting room, it's healthy competition. There is no depth chart right now, so we are just trying to teach everyone the playbook and get them to full speed before we get to training camp.”

Throughout OTAs and now in minicamp, the Jets have given Darnold some reps with the first-team offense. Bates has also opened up the entire playbook to the USC product, insisting you won’t get very far if you are focused on baby steps.

“If you treat them like a rookie, they will become a rookie,” he said. “So, we threw the whole book at him and see what he can handle (and) what he needs to work on just like the other two. He has done a really good job. There is lot of information there.”
While Darnold is learning a new offensive language, Bates believe he is doing an outstanding job early in his pro transition.

“Amazingly, just excellent. People don't understand that getting a snap under center (and) a huddle experience calling these long paragraph kind of plays — it's not easy. I've been around some rookies that took a whole year to be able to get into a huddle and have confidence and call those plays,” he said. “Since rookie camp, he hasn't flinched. Everything that we have thrown at him, he has been able to handle. So we're excited.”

Darnold, who was 20-4 as a starter at USC, continues to flash at practice. He threw a pretty scoring toss to Jordan Leggett during Tuesday’s camp practice as the second-year tight end got enough space to create a window between him and a linebacker.
“I kind of describe him as a very sudden player,” Bates said. “There is not a lot of wasted thought process between him thinking and him releasing the ball. So he is very sudden and at the same time, he has a true passion, a true love for the game. He is all ball as you guys probably have seen both on the practice field and in the media room, and he is really fun to coach.”

But Bates is enjoying coaching more than just Darnold. After a career year, Josh McCown re-signed and Teddy Bridgewater, a former first-round pick who is just 25, has looked good while continuing to take steps in his recovery from a major knee injury he suffered in 2016.
“If I was a rookie quarterback and I was in the same room with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, I would feel pretty good about that,” Bates said. “Josh and Teddy are amazing football players, but even better human beings… With those two veterans who have been there (and) done that — he feeds off of them. They teach him the game, it is a healthy competition. They are pulling for each other. They are talking about mistakes and how to grow from them. So, I think that is a big advantage for Sam just to have those two guys with high character in the room.”

Bates, who credited his strong staff for their teaching abilities, will call the offensive plays for the Jets in 2018 after being promoted from his duties as QB coach. Bates who served as the Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator in 2010, says the entire offensive unit has a good mojo as the spring winds down.
“I don't have a crystal ball, so we are still trying to figure out what we do best,” he said. “We are throwing the whole playbook at them and deciding what we can feature and maybe some things we can put background and work in next spring. I will say this — there is a good vibe. There is good energy with the offensive unit. They are coming to work every day and they're getting better. It is exciting to be here right now on the offensive side.”




What Did We Learn at Minicamp?

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Yestoday the Jets held their last practice of their mandatory full-squad minicamp. The players have packed up and headed for parts known and unknown" for the next six weeks. Head coach Todd Bowles held his final news conference during which he answered some questions, didn't answer some others, and couldn't answer still others.

What do we know now about the Jets before things get "hot and heated," in Bowles' phrase, beginning in late July? Here are seven points:

1. No QB Rotation Change...Yet
We know the QB depth chart at least for day one of camp. It's no news flash that Bowles isn't changing the rotation yet. "Josh [McCown] will start training camp" at No. 1, the coach said. "Teddy [Bridgewater] will line up No. 2. It'll be no different than the spring going in."

At some point this summer, he and OC Jeremy Bates will discuss "the plan," which will include reps and a timetable for possibly rearranging the depth chart. "And we'll see what happens at the end of training camp."
2. And Then There's Sam
Left unsaid in that reply is that third pick of the draft Sam Darnold will start out No. 3 in the rotation. But many were impressed with Darnold's camp, from Bowles and coaches to his fellow QBs and players on both sides of the ball. Said Leonard Williams, the fellow Southern Cal product, "He just looks like a pro already."

Sam's take: "I think I’ve done pretty good, just coming in here and learning every single day. That’s a credit to the coaches around me and the players as well, just helping me grow." Is it within the realm of possibility that the rookie could win the starting job out of training camp? "Yeah, I would say anything is possible. I think I’m capable of a lot of things," Darnold said. "But that’s not up for me to decide at the end of the day."
3. Leo Loaded for Bear
Speaking of Williams, he's aware of his different emerging role on the Jets' defense and team. "I'm already in my fourth year. It's definitely been rolling fast but it's been rolling in a positive way," Leo said. "I'm just more comfortable. I'm one of the leaders on the defense and I just naturally have a different mindset."
One thing Bowles noticed: "Leonard came back in a lot better shape than he was in last year. Again, it's spring, but he moved around well."

4. Pryor: Boot Off, Determination On
Football, thy name is injury. Bridgewater's knee injury and his improvement this spring has been well-documented. One other offensive player who hasn't been completely healthy in a while is WR Terrelle Pryor, who was injured before Washington's opener last year, eventually went on IR, came to the Jets, tweaked the ankle again, and was in a boot until this week.

"I was scared, but it was nowhere near as bad as I thought," Pryor said today about his ankle. He's planning to be ready from the start of camp, God, Bowles and head trainer John Mellody willing. "I want to come out here, hit the field fast, hard, being a leader on the field to the offense and doing whatever I can to be the best teammate I can be."
5. Injury Prognoses
As gung-ho as Pryor is, he's one of several players who've been coming along slowly. Rontez Miles' knee injury will keep him out for a while. CB Morris Claiborne has the bruised wrist. LB Jordan Jenkins has a "nicked-up" shoulder." Cairo Santos (groin from last season) didn't do any serious kicking. But Bowles wasn't divulging much on who might miss some camp and who'll be ready from day one.
"All of them [besides Miles] can be ready depending on the time, or they could miss a day or two or a week," he said. "I could sit here and tell you one thing and it changes into another, so we'll let it play out."

6. Eyes on Returners
Among the questions on special teams is who will be returning kicks. Rookie Trenton Cannon, second-year man Elijah McGuire and veterans Lucky Whitehead and Andre Roberts did a lot of dropping back this spring and minicamp.

One of coach Brant Boyer's top goals for his specialists, he said, is "really, improving in the return game. That's something that has really hurt us the last few years."

7. Competition All Around
One thing that bodes well for the Jets in 2018 is that no matter what the position, the competition is through the roof.

"The good thing is, can't nobody take a break," Bowles said. "We're two or three deep, from a competitive standpoint, at more positions than we've ever had. So it's going to be a good training camp."





Jets Sign DL Courtney Upshaw

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The Jets have signed veteran free agent defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw and have waived defensive lineman Chris Jones.

Upshaw (6'2", 272), the seventh-year pro, was invited to participate in the Jets' mandatory minicamp that concluded today as a tryout player.

He entered the NFL as Baltimore's second-round pick, 35th overall, in the 2012 NFL Draft, and played all 70 games, including playoffs, as a Ravens linebacker from 2012-15. He then signed with Atlanta as an unrestricted free agent in March 2016 and played the past two seasons on the Falcons D-line. 

He played in two Super Bowls — XLVII, in which the Ravens defeated the 49ers and he forced a fumble that started a touchdown drive, and LI, in which the Falcons lost to the Patriots in OT and he notched a sack.


For his career, Upshaw has played in 90 regular-season games (56 starts) with 7.0 sacks, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and 215 tackles.

Jones signed with the Jets as a sixth-year veteran free agent on June 5. He was drafted by Houston in the sixth round in 2013 and spent time on the rosters of the Buccaneers, Patriots, Dolphins and 49ers. He saw most of his action (28 games, 22 starts) as a DE, DT and special teamer with New England in 2013-14.




Terrelle Pryor ‘Progressing Very Well’

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Jets wide receiver Terrelle Pryor believes he’ll be ready for the start of training camp after suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him for OTAs and minicamp.

“We’re progressing very well,” Pryor told reporters on the final day of minicamp. “It was a minor injury like everyone has been saying. Hopefully we can get back on pace pretty fast. We’re headed towards that direction.”

The sixth-year wideout said Jets head trainer John Mellody and head coach Todd Bowles have the final say on whether or not he’ll suit up at the start of training camp in late July. Pryor recently ditched his walking boot, but this injury is unrelated to last year’s foot ailment that eventually caused him to land on Injured Reserve.
Pryor said he’s ready to regain his 2016 form when he reeled in 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns with the Browns. Last year, Pryor only recorded 20 receptions for 240 yards and one touchdown in nine games (two starts) as he tore his deltoid [ligament] in Week 1, but tried to play through the pain. He said the agony would sometimes cause him to fall on his face after running routes and he then decided to shut it down and get surgery.

“Weird things happen,” Pryor said. “Dealing with an injury like that and not being able to practice a lot and go hard and actually run routes, I couldn’t really think about it when I’m running routes and doing different things. I had four drops last year, a lot of drops. I couldn’t really focus on my game because I was more worried about my foot.

“Now, I’m healthy and ready to get back to form and have a dominant year.”

The former Ohio State quarterback is excited about joining a receivers room that WRs coach Karl Dorrell believes is the deepest group he’s coached in his four years with the Green & White. Although Dorrell said he hasn’t worked much with Pryor, he appreciates his study habits.

“He’ll be back soon, but the one thing I love about Terrelle is that he’s in every meeting,” Dorrell said. “He doesn’t miss anything. He’s a pain in the butt in the training room because he wants to get everything done. He’s just really good about trying to get back with some urgency and that’s what I like as a coach. He wants to get back as soon as he can.

“He’s thirsty about getting back on the field, getting some reps in this offense and also improving some of his technique. So all the things a coach loves to hear right there. We’re excited.”





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