EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold has been a fan of Aaron Rodgers for years and wouldn’t mind following in his footsteps on the field.
And, on the small screen.
The New York Jets rookie quarterback watched film of NFL stars while he was developing his own skills as a signal caller in high school, in college at USC and even now as a pro himself. One of the most frequently viewed players in Darnold’s studies has been Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers’ two-time MVP.
“Just the way he’s able to see the field so fast,” Darnold said. “It’s almost like he knows what the defense is going to do before the snap. For him, it looks so easy and so effortless. He has probably the best arm talent that I’ve ever seen, debatably, in NFL history.”
Darnold also gives Rodgers a rousing review for his work over the years in a series of TV commercials for an insurance company.
“He’s a great actor,” Darnold said with a big smile. “I think he’ll be a good actor one day and his TV commercials look pretty funny. So yeah, I envy his ability to go in front of camera and do that kind of stuff. Hopefully one day I can do that, too. I think one day actually he’ll be a great actor.”
The Jets (4-10) host Rodgers and the Packers (5-8-1) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in game that has no playoff implications with both teams out of the postseason picture. Rodgers still expects to play despite dealing with a sore groin that very well could have had the 35-year-old star decide to pack it in for the season.
“I’m super competitive,” Rodgers said, “and I want to be out there with the guys, and I look forward to being out there.”
The Packers are 1-1 under interim coach Joe Philbin, who replaced the fired Mike McCarthy. They are trying to snap a nine-game road losing streak, dating to last season. A loss to New York would mark the first time Green Bay would go through a season winless away from Lambeau Field since the 1958 squad, and the sixth time in franchise history.
“Yeah, I think it’s important for us to not be a statistic next to the (1958) Packers,” Rodgers said. “It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. It would be good for our confidence and for the young guys to feel what that post-win locker room, bus ride, plane flight back feels like, and take it with us in the future.”
Here are other things to know about the Packers-Jets matchup:
Darnold has two straight solid games after missing three with a foot injury. The No. 3 overall draft pick has thrown three touchdown passes and just one interception since returning , and has made plays with his legs while giving the Jets leads in the fourth quarter of both games.
“I didn’t want the time off, I wanted to keep going, I wanted to keep getting experience,” Darnold said. “But that’s what happened. I felt like for me, I truly believe everything happens for a reason.”
Here’s one reason for Rodgers to play even if the Packers are already eliminated: receiver Davante Adams has a chance to set a couple franchise records.
Already at 100 catches for the first time in his career with two games left, Adams needs 13 to break the club mark set by Sterling Sharpe in 1993. At 1,315 yards, Adams is 205 away from breaking the single-season club record held by former teammate Jordy Nelson (1,519 in 2014). Adams also earned his second Pro Bowl nod this year, though his first as an original selection.
“To be able to rise and do the things that I’ve dreamed of, obviously I feel like I’m still scratching the surface now, I’m nowhere near my prime,” Adams said.
VERY SPECIAL TEAMS
Perhaps the Jets’ biggest surprise has been the overall play of their special teams unit. Two of the standouts on that squad were selected to their first career Pro Bowls.
Return specialist Andre Roberts , a nine-year veteran, leads the NFL in kick return yards (912) and ranks second in punt return yards (312). He has eight returns of 40 or more yards to lead the league.
Jason Myers missed two extra points vs. Houston, but will also be headed to Orlando — the first kicker to represent the Jets at the Pro Bowl — after a season full of long kicks. He has five field goals of 55 yards or more , the most in one season in NFL history.
The Packers have some big-time backfield question marks.
Leading rusher Aaron Jones went on injured reserve this week with a knee injury. Jamaal Williams, the only other running back who has been on the active roster all season, was limited in practice this week with a toe injury.
Williams, who started at the beginning of the season, would likely take back the job — if healthy. Kapri Bibbs, claimed off waivers from the Redskins this week, may be pressed into service if he can get up to speed quickly in practice.
ON THE LINE
A defensive line considered a strength at the beginning of the year has been ravaged by injuries. Muhammad Wilkerson and Mike Daniels went on injured reserve earlier this year, and emerging third-year player Kenny Clark missed last week’s loss to the Bears with an elbow injury.
That has left coordinator Mike Pettine starting third-year player Dean Lowry and undrafted rookie free agent Tyler Lancaster. They have been solid, but Green Bay is 22nd against the rush, allowing 124.1 yards per game.
AP Sports Writer Genaro C. Armas contributed.
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