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Jets - Christian Hackenberg (Bleacher Report)

Jets – Christian Hackenberg (Bleacher Report)

In a division that has been owned by Tom Brady and the Patriots, perhaps there is no team with more questions heading into the 2017 season than the New York Jets. After jettisoning so many of players from last season’s roster, highlighted by departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Marshall, it appears a rebuilding year is ahead for the Jets. To the surprise of many, the Jets elected to not take a quarterback in the 2017 NFL draft.

The New York Jets’ 2017 quarterback competition began the same way the 2016 one played out — with Christian Hackenberg out of sight, and not in the good way.

Veteran Josh McCown took most of the first-team reps this week when the Jets opened organized team activities in Florham Park. Petty saw the rest of the first-team reps while Hackenberg spent his practice time with the third-stringers on the back end of the two fields utilized by the team.

It would be easy to say nothing should be read into practice reps and the fields on which they are taken more than three months before the season kicks off. And both head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator John Morton seem committed to holding an open competition throughout the late spring and summer.

Hackenberg will see the field some in 2017 even if he’s unable to wrestle the starting job from McCown, or other young returning signal caller, Bryce Petty, who ended last season on injured reserve. However, in a season that can be described as pivotal for everyone involved with the organization, New York is unlikely to put Hackenberg in unless he’s ready.

Hackenberg’s development could have a time limit. If he is unable to show improvement in 2017, the Jets may have to look for answers elsewhere. The 2018 NFL Draft appears to have high-level quarterback prospects that may interest the Jets if they don’t believe Hackenberg is the answer.

Is Josh McCown An Upgrade From Fitzpatrick?

But back to the task at hand. The Jets made a switch of the guard at the most important position in football. Did they make the correct decision?  The short answer is yes. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s time with the Jets was truly over after his three interception fiasco in Buffalo Week 17 of the 2015 season. Despite an old dog having his day, the Jets put everything on him coming back and it failed.

So there was zero talk of Fitzpatrick returning to the green and white for this next season. 34 years old, more interceptions than touchdowns last season and a piss poor attitude wasn’t the ripe combination the Jets were looking for.

I’ll put the over-under line on McCown starts at four. He’s old (38 in July) and injury prone and he hasn’t been a productive starter since 2013 with the Bears — his only successful run as a No. 1 quarterback. If McCown is a bridge quarterback, it’ll be a short bridge. The Jets know this, and that’s why they’re paying him like a low-end starter/high-end backup — a $6 million guarantee. He will earn an additional $125,000 for each start, which could bring him up to $8 million. By opting for an inexpensive, one-year rental, the Jets have set it up for Hackenberg. As a rookie, he had no game experience and he didn’t get much quality practice time, but they need to find out about him; that’s what 2017 is all about.

Christian Hackenberg Believes He Should Be Jets QB

When the New York Jets selected Christian Hackenberg with the 51st pick in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, it was presumed he would be a “project.” In other words, he wouldn’t see the field during the regular season as a rookie.

He had been battered his last season at Penn State as he was sacked 37 times and pressured on 40 percent of his drop backs. His footwork and overall mechanics completely sputtered in James Franklin’s offense, and all of the promise from a solid true freshman season after being a highly touted recruit had vanished.

The Jets’ new offensive staff has to help him as well. Jeremy Bates has an extremely solid resume, one in which he coached a player with a similar skill set in Jay Cutler. The former Denver Bronco and Chicago Bear had his best season under Bates’ play-calling in 2008, completing 62.3 percent of his passes for 4,526 yards and 25 touchdowns.

There will be challenges for Hackenberg in 2017. He’ll be learning a new offense as Chan Gailey retired and John Morton takes over at offensive coordinator. He won’t have a true No. 1 target like Brandon Marshall that can even make the Ryan Fitzpatrick’s of the world look capable. The ground attack will be average at best under the tired legs of Matt Forte and the underutilized Bilal Powell.

The NFL is not a patient business. There are no more “redshirt” years for the former second-round pick. Mike Maccagnan made a bold pick, and at some point the team needs to see a blip of a return on investment.

Is Bryce Petty The Possible Answer? 

Bryce Petty probably isn’t the answer for the New York Jets either.  In case you don’t recall, Petty suffered a shoulder injury in the Week 16 loss to the Patriots that forced him to miss the rest of that game and the Week 17 win over the Bills.

Petty seems like one of the big losers of the off season. The signing of Josh McCown likely blocks his path to the starting job. If the Jets had faith in Petty’s ability to hold the fort in the event Hackenberg isn’t ready, it is difficult to imagine them signing McCown.

The Jets are saying it is an open competition at the quarterback position, but there are only so many reps to go around. It is tough to spread those camp reps to more than two quarterbacks, and McCown and Hackenberg appear to be those two.

Winning the job isn’t totally impossible for Petty, but it might take something dramatic such as an injury or Petty playing head and shoulders above the competition. Even that might not be enough

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