Sam Darnold wants to turn strong Jets finish into 2019 springboard

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold showed on Sunday he’s hardly content with his injury-slowed rookie season. The No. 3-overall pick in the draft believes there is more than enough time left to finish the year strong and carry over plenty of positives into 2019.

“I think it’s huge, just trying to get as much momentum as we can going into next season,” Darnold said after being a full participant in practice on Tuesday. “I think it will be huge for this team and really awesome for us to build off of a good end to the season.

“But for me, I think it’s just staying consistent. That’s the biggest word for me these next few games is just being a solid quarterback and someone who’s able to move fast through his progressions and just stay consistent with that, but also able to make plays when they’re there.”

After returning from a three-game absence because of a foot issue to pull out a rousing 27-23 win Sunday in Buffalo — halting the team’s six-game losing skid — the final string continues Saturday for Darnold and the Jets against the Texans (9-4), specifically their fearsome defensive bookends J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

“It’s just game-planning for two really good defensive ends. … For me it’s playing fast, just being able to move through my progressions pretty fast, and understanding where everyone is on the field,” Darnold said. “I think that’s the biggest thing and just continuing to stay consistent with that.

“I know in my head, you can feel in a pocket when you’re a quarterback sitting there with guys like J.J. Watt and Clowney rushing you. You kind of have that feeling of needing to get the ball out a little quicker.”

Despite the foot issue and the chilly upstate weather, the former USC standout showed he can improvise and buy himself time on the Jets’ game-tying score Sunday, when he scrambled back and forth across the field to avoid a sack before finding Robby Anderson in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown.

“I didn’t realize I covered that much ground, but it’s just going out there and playing football,” Darnold said. “I’m trying to find space to throw the football, and if no one’s open, go run around and make a play, but also understand if nothing’s there to be able to throw it away and eat the play. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Darnold, who also engineered a game-winning 61-yard drive against the Bills, said he knows the biggest improvement he will have to make over the final three games — and heading into his second NFL campaign — will be cutting down on his league-high 15 interceptions.

“That’s the No. 1 goal as a quarterback, you don’t want to turn the ball over, you want to give your defense a chance,” Darnold said. “If it’s third-and-long, you have to check the ball down, but if a play is there, and I feel like the play is there, I’m going to try to make it.

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“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 beat myself up about it for a bit, but at the same time, move on and if a play is there and I see it’s there, I’m gonna rip it again. I think that’s just kind of the way I am and how I play, so I’m going to continue to do that.”

The Jets (4-9) and their fans will look forward to seeing more of that progress from the 21-year-old Darnold over the final three games.

“I feel like I’ve progressed a lot, but at the same time there’s a lot of room to grow,” Darnold said. “I’m going to try to get as much experience as I can, as many game reps as I can, to get better.

“I always say I’m taking it one game at a time, but at the same time I do think about where I’m gonna be at in a year from now. And I’m real excited about where I can go from here. I’m just really optimistic about the future.”

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