Sam Darnold is about to make NFL history.
The New York Jets plan to have the 21-year-old rookie start Monday in Detroit, making him the youngest quarterback to do so in an opener since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. And just to put Darnold in the spotlight a little more, he is set to become the first rookie quarterback to start a season opener on “Monday Night Football.”
Darnold acknowledged celebrating his accomplishment before shifting his focus and sounding like a veteran.
“I know that just because I get named the starter doesn’t mean that we won the game,” he said.
Darnold beat out Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater to earn the job perhaps as expected after New York drafted him No. 3 overall out of USC. New York coach Todd Bowles insisted Darnold will be asked to run the team’s regular offense that won’t be altered to keep it simple for him.
Bowles, meanwhile, hopes the Jets’ can slow down Detroit when it has the ball.
“Defensively, you’ve got to keep the score down whether you got Joe Montana, Sam Darnold or Roger Staubach,” Bowles said.
Detroit drafted Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009 and he beat out Daunte Culpepper to start in Week 1 of his rookie year against New Orleans.
Stafford said he didn’t remember much about the game other than facing the Drew Brees-led Saints, who went on to win the Super Bowl after opening with a 45-27 win at home over Detroit.
It is probably a day Stafford wishes to forget.
Stafford was 16 of 37 passes and his 43.2 completion percentage ranks as his sixth-lowest in 125 career games. He threw for 205 yards with three interceptions and his only score was a 1-yard run against the Saints. Brees, meanwhile, threw six touchdown passes.
Here are some other things know about the Jets-Lions matchup:
THE OTHER DEBUT: Days away from leading an NFL team for the first time, Lions coach Matt Patricia refused to publicly relish it.
“My 12-year-old self is probably freaking out somewhere,” he said.
Patricia is very familiar with the Jets because he was the New England’s defensive coordinator for the last six years and was on Bill Belichick’s staff for 14 seasons.
“He’ll have some things up his sleeve,” Bowles said. “He’s handled us quite a few times, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Jets have a new-look and mostly unheralded receiving corps. Quincy Enunwa is on track to play in his first regular-season game since 2016 after missing all of last year with a neck injury. Terrelle Pryor, signed in the offseason after one disappointing season in Washington, appears ready to play after breaking his right ankle during offseason workouts.
Jermaine Kearse led New York with 65 catches last season, but is dealing with an abdomen injury. Robby Anderson is looking to build off a breakout performance in his second NFL season in which he had 63 catches.
The Lions were lackluster in the preseason, struggling with starters on both sides of the ball, and are not worried about that fact.
“On Monday night, we don’t have to be the best team in the NFL,” Detroit receiver Golden Tate said. “We just need to be better than the team we’re playing.”
The Jets had a lot of salary cap space in the offseason and used a chunk of it to sign Pro Bowl cornerback Trumaine Johnson to a five-year, $72.5 million deal after he had 18 interceptions over six years with the Rams.
“He’s kind of a game-changer,” Tate said. “He takes the right chances at the right moment. We’re going to have to be real crisp in our routes and find a way to get open.
“It’s going to be a great challenge and I’m not just speaking for him, but for the rest of the guys out there.”
New York is hoping Johnson can combine with Morris Claiborne to form one of the better cornerback tandems in the league. The Jets also have promising second-year safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye in the secondary, although Maye might not be 100 percent while still recovering from offseason ankle surgery. The confident group has matching T-shirts that read: “New Jack City.”
Detroit safety Glover Quin has started 132 straight games, a streak that trails just San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers (192) and Baltimore cornerback Brandon Carr (160) among active players.
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