Darnold, Bridgewater shine in Jets’ preseason opener

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The New York Jets suddenly have a nice problem on their hands.

Quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and rookie Sam Darnold, listed as the backups to starter Josh McCown, each performed admirably in New York’s preseason opener — a 17-0 win over the visiting Atlanta Falcons on Friday night.

Jets coach Todd Bowles did not want to make too much of one preseason matchup, but he acknowledged after the game that the outstanding play of his quarterbacks poses a dilemma.

“We’ll see how the preseason goes,” said Bowles of the competition for the No. 1 job at QB, per the New York Daily News. “I’m not going to jump to any conclusions after one game. I’ll take my notes and watch practice and compare with the coaches and we’ll come up with a decision. But it’s a tough decision.

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“We have three good players. And we’re happy to have them.”

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Darnold since the Jets traded up three spots in the 2018 NFL Draft to select the former USC standout with the No. 3 overall pick.

Darnold did nothing to douse the lofty expectations in his NFL debut, finishing 13 of 18 for 96 yards and a touchdown — a 14-yard connection to Charles Johnson in the final minute of the first half.

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“I can’t say it impressed me, because we saw it every day,” said Bowles. “Just him handling game situations. … There are things that he can get better at too. But it is a good start.”

Darnold was New York’s third quarterback to take the field, following McCown and Bridgewater. He was 9 of 11 for 75 yards in the opening half and hooked up with Johnson on the score after the wideout dropped one TD pass and had another called back via penalty.

“I was pumped to be out there,” said Darnold, who was greeted with a huge ovation by New York’s fans. “It was pretty cool to be able to get that response from the crowd. Jets fans are one of a kind. They’re awesome.”

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Darnold’s welcome to the NFL even impressed Bridgewater, who is trying to resurrect his own career following a devastating knee injury that caused him to miss nearly two full seasons.

“I’m excited about what’s in store for him,” said Bridgewater, who appeared in only one game over the last two years — a cameo appearance in December 2017 with the Minnesota Vikings in which he tossed two incomplete passes.

Seeing his first extended playing time since suffering a torn ACL and dislocated knee in the 2016 preseason, Bridgewater completed 7 of 8 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Amid reports that New York would be willing to trade Bridgewater under the right circumstances, he did not seem to be affected by the knee, throwing a 16-yard TD pass to running back Isaiah Crowell and completing passes of 23 and 21 yards.

“Tonight, I was ready,” Bridgewater said. “I wasn’t nervous. I was actually anxious to get hit … because I wanted to get hit. It was a great day. For me, it was the final step of the process. Got hit. Got right back up. (It) served as a reminder that the game is still the same.”

McCown, whose 2017 season was ended by a broken hand, played one series to start the game, going three-and-out.

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