Barring a setback in practice on Friday, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is on pace to return from his right shoulder injury on Sunday and start against the Miami Dolphins.
Darnold, who has already missed four games this year with an injury in his throwing shoulder, participated fully in practice on Thursday. It's the first time this week Darnold wasn't limited in practice and his first full practice in multiple weeks.
The quarterback last played in Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs when he was sandwiched between two defenders while scrambling for a first down. The 23-year-old aggravated a sprained AC joint—sustained earlier in the season—in his right shoulder on that play.
Jets head coach Adam Gase said on Wednesday that Darnold will be limited throughout the week when it comes to the volume of throws that he'll makes in practice over the course of the week. Seeing him listed with 'FP' next to his name on the injury report Thursday afternoon is a tremendous sign that his shoulder is continuing to get closer to feeling 100 percent.
In addition to Darnold, tight end Chris Herndon (back) participated fully in practice on Thursday. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman as well as linebacker Blake Cashman and offensive lineman Chuma Edoga were limited.
Darnold's participation on Thursday doesn't necessarily guarantee the he will be taking New York's first offensive snap on Sunday under center. Both Darnold and his coach have spoken this week about getting the quarterback's shoulder to a point where it can take a hit and won't be at risk of further damage.
It's hard to simulate in practice the kind of hits a quarterback will take over the course of a game. Gase explained on Wednesday how New York can design its offensive game plan against the Dolphins to protect Darnold if he's out there by not running lead draws or having him outside the pocket too frequently.
At the end of the day, however, it's up to Darnold when he's on the move and in pressure situations to make smart decisions and not put himself at risk. That's why it's so important to get him healthy enough to "withstand" those hits, as Darnold said earlier in the week.