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USC to the NFL Report: Sam Darnold puts on an impressive performance in first game as starter

New York Jets 1st Round pick Sam Darnold continues to impress during the NFL Pre-Season.

NFL: New York Jets at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

One week after being the third-string quarterback for the New York Jets, former Trojan quarterback Sam Darnold is now sitting comfortably atop the depth chart. How did he fare in his first official start in the NFL?

“I believe that [Darnold] will Quarterback 1 in Week 1 for the New York Jets,” future Hall-of-Famer Jason Witten says right before Sam Darnold’s second preseason game. Just one piece of praise out of many heard throughout the preseason, the rookie quarterback is slowly but surely taking the league by storm.

And, yes, it’s early, but the young gunslinger is also starting to shed the bust label off of USC quarterbacks.

Darnold started the preseason as the third-string quarterback for the New York Jets and has already leapfrogged talented veteran quarterbacks Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater on the depth chart.

Darnold’s second preseason game started off quietly, with a nice one-yard out route to get him accustomed to the unfamiliar FedEx field. He made an athletic play in avoiding a sack the next play, spinning away from Washington defensive end Ryan Kerrigan and throwing the ball away. Unfortunately, the Jets offensive line crumbled again on the next play as Darnold couldn’t avoid taking a sack for the second consecutive time.

On the Jets’ next offensive series, Darnold fired a 13-yard strike to Tre McBride out of the empty set for a beautiful third-down conversion.

After throwing a short out route to Jermaine Kearse, Darnold connected on a short pass to Tre McBride again for another third down conversion. The quarterback then executed a play action bootleg play and dumped it off to Bilal Powell, who ran the ball for nine yards and into the Redskins’ red-zone, capping off the first quarter.

Darnold started the second quarter off with a six-yard throw on a shallow cross to Thomas Rawls, who had to reach up to get the ball. The Jets’ drive ended when Darnold could not find any open receivers on time and went down with a sack for the second time in the game.

Thanks to an interception thrown by Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy on the next Washington drive, Darnold got right back onto the field and immediately tossed a short dump pass to Powell, who carried the ball upfield for 11 yards. Shortly after, Darnold threw his second incompletion of the game, a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage by a defensive lineman. On third down, Darnold threw a hitch route to Robby Anderson, who could not get the first down. Jets head coach Todd Bowles decided to go for it, and on Darnold’s first ever fourth-down situation in his professional career, the eager rookie threw his first career interception. His intended receiver had two defenders around him, and the bad read by Darnold led him to get picked.

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Overall, the former Trojan, despite ending his night with a bad interception, looked like he is going to be the answer at quarterback for the Jets. Finishing with a statline of 8-for-11, 62 yards, and an interception, Darnold was relatively accurate with all of his throws and looked very comfortable pre-snap, calling audibles with confidence like a seasoned veteran. New York should be excited for Darnold. He is going to become the Jets’ franchise quarterback.