FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold knows this is only the beginning.
It has been an up-and-down rookie season for the New York Jets quarterback, marked by some costly mistakes, flashes of brilliance, promising progress and invaluable experience.
Darnold can also scratch fourth-quarter comeback off the list after directing the Jets past the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.
“I always say that I’m taking it one game at a time and that’s definitely true, but at the same time, I do think about where I’m going to be at in a year or two from now,” Darnold said Tuesday. “I’m really excited about where I can go from here and really optimistic about the future and what it holds.”
So are the Jets, who are 4-9 after snapping a six-game skid with a 27-23 victory. It was Darnold’s first game in over a month because of a foot injury, and it put the No. 3 overall draft pick back on track for a positive finish to the season.
There was an early scare when Darnold had to leave the game for X-rays after it appeared he re-injured his foot. A sense of relief — by Darnold, the Jets and fans — followed when he was able to return to the field. And he got better as the day went along, even in the coldest game of the California kid’s career.
“I prepared really hard,” Darnold said. “I thought I had a really good week of practice, my foot felt great. So, obviously, I had the hiccup there after the first drive but after that I came back out and felt fine. So it felt good, it wasn’t too cold or anything out there.
“Yeah, I felt really good and I was confident in our guys, like I always am, and felt really good about going out there and slinging it.”
Darnold made plays with his right arm and both of his feet against the Bills, capped by the comeback that had everyone in the organization feeling good again about the face of the franchise.
And he has three more games to improve, something in which he puts a lot of stock.
“For me, I think it’s just staying consistent,” Darnold said. “That’s the biggest word for me these next few games is just being a solid quarterback and someone who is able to move fast through his progressions and just stay consistent with that, but also make plays when they’re there.”
One area Darnold wants to improve upon is his league-leading interception total. He’s at 15, despite missing three games.
By no means, however, is that going to change his aggressive approach.
“That’s the No. 1 goal as a quarterback: You don’t want to turn the ball over,” he said. “You want to give your defense a chance. If it’s third-and-long, checking the ball down, but if the play is there and I feel like the play is there, I’m going to try to make it.
“I’m definitely not going to flinch if I feel like something is there and if I throw an interception, I’m definitely going to be (ticked) off about it for a little bit but at the same time move on. If a play is there and I see it’s there, I’m going to rip it again and have no flinch about it. So I think that’s just kind of the way I am and how I’ve played my whole life. I’m just going to continue to do that.”
Darnold was a full participant at practice Tuesday as the Jets prepare to host the Houston Texans on Saturday. He acknowledged that his foot has some expected soreness, but nothing that hampered him.
“I feel great,” he said. “It feels great, you know, dropping back and being able to move in the pocket. Also, I was able to sprint a little bit today, which felt good as well.”
Darnold will take the next three games as learning experiences, fine-tuning his timing, speeding his reads and sharpening his feel in the pocket — the last of which he can see a real difference in from his first NFL start three months ago.
“I think I have progressed a lot, progressed really well, but at the same time there’s a lot of room to grow,” Darnold said. “I think that’s a feel thing, too. So I’m just going to try to get as much experience as I can, as many game reps as I can to get better at that.”
NOTES: RBs Isaiah Crowell (toe), Elijah McGuire (ankle) and Trenton Cannon (toe) all sat out practice, leaving the Jets with just practice squad players in the backfield in De’Angelo Henderson and Mark Thompson. The team also signed RB Joel Bouagnon to the practice squad for added depth. Coach Todd Bowles said it was too early to rule anyone out against the Texans. … WR Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and LBs Jordan Jenkins (shoulder/ankle) and Jeremiah Attaochu (concussion) also didn’t practice. LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) was limited. … New York also signed LB Jonathan Celestin to the practice squad and released S Tyvis Powell.
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