Bridgewater's rise adds intrigue to QB battle

Teddy Bridgewater is threatening to crash the Jets' coming-out party for franchise savior Sam Darnold.

With the anointing oils out in full force, Darnold played the entire first half of Thursday night's 15-13 loss to the Redskins, taking a step back from his promising preseason debut. The draft's No. 3 overall pick struggled a bit with the Redskins' pressure, forced an interception into double coverage and failed once again to test the opposing defense downfield.

It's worth nothing, however, that Darnold received little help from a shaky offensive line that added precious few reinforcements in the offseason.

Through two preseason games, the former USC star has completed 21 of 29 passes (72.4 percent) for 158 yards (5.45 YPA), one touchdown, one interception and an 82.3 passer rating. More problematic, he's led just two scoring drives in 10 possessions.

That's not to say Darnold hasn't exhibited traits that suggest a promising future as the face of the franchise. The youngest quarterback in the league should get high marks from his coaching staff for short-to-intermediate accuracy, touch, escapability, decisiveness and poise.

Where Bridgewater has the advantage thus far is in decision-making, uncanny ball placement and a willingness to pull the trigger on deeper throws. Through two games, he has completed 17 of 23 passes (73.9 percent) for 212 yards (9.2 YPA), two touchdowns, one interception and a 113.0 passer rating.

Perhaps most promising from the perspective of teams weighing the cost-benefit analysis of surrendering draft capital in trade talks, Bridgewater has moved well in and out of the pocket and bounced right back after taking a hit to his lower legs. NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly believes the Jets' version of Bridgewater might end up being an improvement on the player who earned the Pepsi Rookie of the Year award with the Vikings in 2014.

The Jets' quarterback decision has several moving parts over the next two weeks.

If Bridgewater continues to outplay Darnold, will he be given a fair shot -- or a trade out of town? If Bridgewater and Darnold both faceplant in the third preseason tilt, on the other hand, will coach Todd Bowles turn back to old reliable Josh McCown? If the rookie galvanizes the fan base with an uplifting performance against the cross-town rivals next week, will both veterans open the season on the bench?

Stay tuned for at least one more week of the most captivating quarterback battle in the league.