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Lack of tape makes Darnold a challenging study for Lions

The New York Jets named rookie Sam Darnold as their starting quarterback for the season opener on Monday Night Football in Detroit.

It's a big opening stage for Darnold, 21, who will be the NFL's youngest Week 1 starting quarterback since at least the 1970 merger with the AFL.

"I know that I haven't done anything yet, haven't won any games in the NFL," Darnold told New York Newsday this week. "Knowing that I am young compared to all the other starting quarterbacks for me that's just affirmation that I got a long way to go.

"I know I got to continue to work every single day and put my best foot forward for this team and organization and just go out there and be consistent."

The Lions' multiple defense hopes to make it hard on the rookie making his first ever start in the NFL, but there will be some unknowns with there not being a whole lot of tape on Darnold for them to study leading into Monday's contest.

"Making sure that we know exactly what Sam's strengths are is going to be important," Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said this week. "Knowing exactly what they feel he can do best and trying to decipher that through what they have done in preseason and there's not a whole lot of tape, obviously."

Darnold completed 29-of-45 passes (64.4 percent) with two touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 83.9 in the preseason.

The Jets also have a new offensive coordinator in Jeremy Bates. The preseason doesn't offer much in terms of schematic clues for the regular season, so it will be a tough study this week for Pasqualoni, head coach Matt Patricia and the rest of the Lions defensive coaching staff.

"It's going to be a challenge and my sense is we're going to have to be able to adjust as we get into the game," Pasqualoni said. "And we're going to have to able to adjust to exactly what they decide they're going to do. It's going to be a challenge because there isn't a whole lot of tape."

Darnold passed for 4,143 yards and 26 touchdowns helping USC win the Pac-12 title last season. The offense Darnold ran at USC is completely different than what the Jets have him running in New York, so Pasqualoni said the Lions' video prep will really stay to the preseason, which again, doesn't give them a whole lot to go on.

Jets head coach Todd Bowles wouldn't have named Darnold the starter over a crafty veteran like Josh McCown, 39, if he didn't think the rookie could handle it. Darnold's got great arm strength and mobility, and looked poised beyond his years in the preseason. That being said, Jets fans can expect some growing pains that all rookie quarterbacks have.

For the Lions' defense, they know Darnold has talent and is just as capable of coming to Detroit and putting up big numbers, if they let him.

"He's been a top-rated player his whole career," Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs said of Darnold. "So, at the end of the day, he has the pedigree. He has everything.

"You just have to study him as best you can and just watch him. We know he's a good young player and I think he's going to be tremendous in this league."

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