Jets QB competition: Hackenberg plays with starters, but struggles


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Jets coach Todd Bowles talks about the quarterback competition after training camp practice on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 ,in Florham Park, N.J.
Andy Vasquez/NorthJersey.com

FLORHAM PARK — Jets coach Todd Bowles refuses to reveal his quarterback rotation for Saturday’s preseason opener. 

But there is growing evidence that second-year quarterback Christian Hackenberg could get a lot of action when the Jets host the Titans at MetLife Stadium. 

For the first time this training camp, Hackenberg was the first quarterback in the rotation during team drills and got the most overall reps. 

But if this was an opportunity, Hackenberg didn’t exactly seize it. He was inconsistent, finishing 11-of-17 with a touchdown and two interceptions.

It continued a trend that we’ve seen all through this training camp. None of the quarterbacks have been truly impressive.

McCown, the leader by default, completed 4-of-5 passes on Wednesday. Just another unremarkable day for a guy that can probably win the job with a ho-hum training camp.

Petty had probably his best practice of camp, going 9-of-12 with two touchdowns and making the most of an increased role. He’s still the only quarterback who hasn’t worked extensively with the starters. 

Hackenberg finally got that chance Wednesday. But he was his usual, tantalizingly inconsistent self. 

His best throw of the day was a lofted, over the shoulder ball to Robby Anderson. It hit Anderson in stride down the left sideline a gain of about 20 yards. It was one of the best touch throws Hackenberg has made in a Jets uniform. And a definite sign of progress.

His touchdown came on a nice pass to receiver Frankie Hammond. Bowles admitted Hackenberg’s command of the huddle is “a lot better,” and the second-year pro out of Penn State also moved around the pocket well while avoiding the pass rush. 

But his ability to avoid turnovers was not so good.

On his second throw of practice, Hackenberg was picked off by safety Rontez Miles after locking in on a target. On the final play of practice, in the two-minute drill, Hackenberg forced a throw that was picked off by cornerback Dexter McDougle. It wasn’t a pretty end. 

Hackenberg had gone the first eight practices of training camp without throwing a single interception in team drills. He’s now thrown four in his last two practices.

But Bowles, doing his best to avoid speaking about Hackenberg specifically, said the turnovers aren’t a cause for worry. 

“It’s practice, Bowles said. “The defense has got to get turnovers, I’d be concerned if they weren’t. They got two today. But we’re cleaning some things up and we’re learning as we go. It’s going to be up and down every day, so we’ll just go from there.”

Hackenberg took 27 snaps, Bryce Petty took 20, and Josh McCown had 12. Before Wednesday, the 10th practice of training camp, McCown had taken the most reps in every practice and been first in the quarterback rotation.  

The increased reps for Hackenberg — and Petty, who was a distant third in reps during the first week of practice — seem like a sign that both could get significant playing time on Saturday night. 

But Bowles was dismissive when asked if that was the case. 

“No … it’s training camp,” Bowles said. “That was the plan all along. We’re going to catch up in the second week and everybody’s going to get their fair, equal shots to play. We’re just going with our plan.”

But Bowles’ and the Jets’ detailed plan apparently doesn’t include who will start the first preseason game, or what the breakdown will be. 

Bowles said that the coaching staff “haven’t discussed” that yet. Perhaps Thursday will be the day. 

Email: vasqueza@northjersey.com



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