After missing two games with an injured throwing shoulder, quarterback Sam Darnold will start for the winless New York Jets on Sunday -- their first game with the entire group of starting skill-position players.
"I think these guys want to see what maybe it could've been from the beginning of the year," coach Adam Gase said Friday while confirming that Darnold is poised to face the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.
Darnold, who suffered an AC joint sprain in Week 4, has impressed the coaches this week in practice. Gase spoke confidently of Darnold's arm strength, saying only a setback in Friday's practice would keep him out of the lineup.
"Which I don't anticipate," Gase said. "Everything looks good to go."
Speaking after practice, Darnold confirmed there were no issues in practice, saying he "felt really good" the last two days.
"Now that I can feel good and really trust myself when I'm out there 100%, I think that's the biggest thing for me mentally," he said. "I can't wait to go out there and play Sunday."
Darnold has missed four of the past six games because he aggravated the injury in Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs. He tried to play the next week against the New England Patriots, but he didn't feel right and pulled himself out of practice.
"The way he's throwing the football right now, you can tell there's a big difference as far as the control, the velocity, his change-of-pace on throws," Gase said. "It looks a lot different than the last time he tried to make a run at trying to play in a game."
Earlier in the week, Darnold said his only concern was how his shoulder would respond to contact. After two days of full participation in practice, he evidently feels the shoulder is strong enough to absorb a hit.
"I think it's going to be fine," he said. "The doctors are saying I'll be fine, so I'm trusting what they say."
Unlike in his previous six starts this season, Darnold will have his full complement of playmakers. Wide receivers Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims, all hurt at various points, are healthy. With Joe Flacco at quarterback, the passing game showed signs of improvement the past two games.
Now it's Darnold's turn. Gase said he's "fired up" to see how he looks. The Jets (0-10) rank last in scoring and total yards.
"Those guys have producing the last couple of weeks," Darnold said. "It's going to be nice playing with those guys."
This is an important stretch for Darnold, whose future appears uncertain. The Jets could land the first or second pick in the 2021 NFL draft, which means they will have a quarterback decision to make. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the presumptive top pick.
Darnold, the No. 3 pick in 2018, has struggled this season. He's ranked 30th out of 30 qualifying quarterbacks in Total QBR with a career-low 39.5.
He has struggled against the Dolphins -- a 1-4 record, with four touchdown passes and eight interceptions.