Three-and-out: Sam Darnold’s first start and other Jets-Redskins observations

Three-and-out: Sam Darnold’s first start and other Jets-Redskins observations


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LANDOVER, Md. — The Washington Redskins defeated the New York Jets, 15-13, on Thursday night in front of a sparse preseason crowd at FedEx Field.

Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold made his first NFL start, the most notable aspect of an otherwise forgettable contest. He looked decent in two series against Washington’s No. 1 defense, completing six of seven passes for 47 yards, though New York’s prized first-round pick absorbed drive-ending sacks on both. The second possession concluded with a 36-yard field goal for New York.

Darnold, who played the entire first half, finished 8-for-11 for 62 yards. His final pass, intended for Jermaine Kearse on fourth-and-1 from the Redskins 20-yard line, was forced into coverage, deflected by Washington safety Deshazor Everett and intercepted by rookie Troy Apke.

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Overall, Darnold looked solid behind a shaky offensive line, seemed to progress through his reads while keeping his eyes downfield and showed pocket mobility that will likely prove critical if he’s tabbed the Week 1 starter.

Three other takeaways from Jets-Redskins:

Smith’s debut: Quarterback Alex Smith made his initial appearance for Washington and looked sharp in his lone drive of the night, one that ended with a field goal. He completed four of six throws for 48 yards, but both incompletions looked catchable, including one targeted to Trey Quinn in the end zone. Smith’s leadership is already playing well in the locker room, and it appears his athleticism and decision-making could render him an even better fit in Jay Gruden’s offense than departed Kirk Cousins was.

Redskins on the run: The ground game was an issue for Washington on both sides of the ball in 2017. They ranked 27th running the ball and suffered a major blow in the preseason opener when second-round rookie Derrius Guice was lost to a season-ending ACL tear. Rob Kelley started against the Jets but managed just 17 yards on seven attempts. Samaje Perine busted loose for 30 yards on his only carry, a run that ended with an ankle injury. Third-down back Chris Thompson should be ready for the regular season, but this could remain an area of concern.

However matters are looking up on a defense that ranked dead last in stopping the run last season. The duo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, both first-round linemen from Alabama, look poised to shut down once-gaping lanes in 2018. In two possessions against the Jets, the Redskins allowed just 7 yards on five rushes.

Jets D: It was good news / bad news for a New York defense that may have to largely carry a team that could start a rookie at quarterback and has limited offensive weaponry regardless of who’s taking the snaps. The Jets struggled to slow the Redskins, their starters surrendering 157 yards in three drives. On the plus side, Washington couldn’t punch the ball over the goal line. The Jets stiffened on the first two possessions, forcing the Redskins to settle for field goals. On the next drive, Doug Middleton picked off a pass from Colt McCoy at the Jets’ 7-yard line after rookie receiver Cam Sims failed to hold onto it and deflected it to the safety.

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Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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