Jets' Darnold to start vs. Bills, barring shoulder setbacks

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) makes a pass during an NFL football game. (Steve Luciano/AP)

NEW YORK — Sam Darnold is set to return as the New York Jets' starting quarterback Sunday against the Buffalo Bills as long as he has no further complications with his injured shoulder.

Coach Adam Gase said Darnold, who was limited all three days at practice, would be monitored Friday to determine his playing status. The quarterback was officially listed as questionable on the team's injury report.

``Things are trending in the right direction,'' Gase said. ``Hopefully, barring any setbacks, we'll get him going on Sundays _ this Sunday.''

Darnold has missed the last two games with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder suffered in New York's loss to Denver on Oct. 1. He returned to finish that game, but has sat out since while Joe Flacco has started in his place.

If Darnold got through practice Friday with no issues, he'll be under centre against the Bills.

``We'll roll, yeah,'' Gase said. ``He'll be good.''

Despite being limited Wednesday and Thursday, Darnold was able to show the Jets enough progress in his recovery to make them optimistic about his chances of playing.

``He's looked good,'' Gase said. ``It's like one of those things where you don't see anything that is alarming or looks different. I'm sure he doesn't feel like he did in Game 1 of Week 1, but he's not giving us any indications where I don't see any lack of velocity. I haven't seen him throw any balls where they either die or he couldn't get the distance. I haven't seen any of that.

``Everything looks normal.''

Darnold said Thursday he was eager to get back on the field, but acknowledged there was still some pain in his shoulder at times _ ``but it's nothing crazy. I feel like I'm capable of dealing with it.''

Gase said the team had to weigh that with what the doctors thought in order to make the best decision for Darnold and the Jets.

``It's not really like I'm worried about him re-hurting his shoulder or anything,'' the coach said. ``It's just more that he's in pain. There's a little bit of pain there for him that he's not complaining about to the extent where it's like we shouldn't play him type of deal.

``He wants to play. That was the biggest decision we had to make as a group was, is this the right thing to do? He wasn't really looking to take no for an answer.''

The 0-6 Jets have struggled on offence all season, even when Darnold was playing. They rank last or close to last in the league in several significant categories. But having the athletic 23-year-old quarterback in the lineup at least gives Gase some flexibility with his play calling as opposed to having the 35-year-old Flacco in.

``Getting him back out there, he's able to kind of create some things when things aren't going the right way with his legs,'' Gase said. ``It just gives (opponents) another element to have to worry about. That's the biggest difference between the two guys is really the movement, as far as being that threat to have an explosive run at some point or extend a third down if the protection isn't there.''

Rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton is also on track to return after missing most of the last three games with an injured left shoulder.

``Unless we have some kind of weird setback today, it looks good,'' Gase said.

Becton was limited for the third straight day, and listed as questionable for the game _ but expects to play.

``It's going to be real great,'' a smiling Becton said. ``Like a little kid in a candy store. I can't wait to get back out there. Ready to have fun.''

The 6-foot-7, 363-pound Becton laughed when a reporter pointed out he used the words ``little kid'' while describing his emotions.

``Big kid,'' Becton said. ``Big little kid. There ya go.''

Kicker Sam Ficken (right groin) did not practice and was listed as doubtful. The Jets would promote former CFL and XFL kicker Sergio Castillo from the practice squad if Ficken can't go.

``We're kind of day to day right now, but we're running out of time,'' Gase said. ``So, we're going to have to make a decision pretty soon.''

Left guard Alex Lewis also sat out practice for a third straight day with a shoulder injury and is doubtful to play.

Wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who leads the team with 29 catches, 383 yards receiving and two touchdowns, was limited after sitting out Thursday with a groin injury. He is questionable to play.

``He didn't feel good enough to go, so we thought it was smart to hold him back,'' Gase said. ``We'll see if he'll feel better today, so right now, the plan is for him to be able to practice.''

Offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (calf) was also limited and questionable for the game. Linebacker Tarell Basham was a full participant after missing a day with an illness.

Offensive tackle George Fant is questionable after he injured a knee in practice Thursday and sat out Friday. Gase said it could be a game-time decision.

Rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims appears on track to make his NFL debut after sitting out with hamstring issues since training camp. But with several other injuries, Gase said the Jets might need to make other roster moves before activating the second-round pick.

``I feel like I can bring a lot of energy,'' Mims said. ``I feel like I can make plays for the team.''

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