QBs DON’T EMBARRASS THEMSELVES
Christian Hackenberg may have become the first quarterback in NFL history to play a preseason game while wearing handcuffs on Saturday night.
At least that’s what it felt like.
The second-year Jets quarterback got plenty of playing time, entering after one series in the first quarter and playing deep into the third, but the offense was so conservative it felt like Steve Bannon was the new Jets offensive coordinator, not John Morton.
Hackenberg completed 18 of 25 passes for 127 yards, averaging a measly 5.1 yards per attempt, in a 7-3 Jets win over the Titans. It was the preseason opener for both teams, and it was as ugly as you would expect a game in early August to be.
For Hackenberg, there were plenty of positives. He did not throw an interception, looked more certain on the field than he has, and he did not hold onto the ball too long — something that has plagued him in practice.
Still, it was hard to walk away wowed by the player the Jets took 51st overall in 2016 out of Penn State because most of his throws were short, safe passes. He only aired it out downfield once, and his longest completion was 14 yards. That may have been partly Hackenberg’s choice, but it felt like the coaches limited the game plan to help Hackenberg’s confidence, and because they don’t trust him to run the full offense. He also fumbled a snap in the third quarter that was lost to the Titans on what looked like a miscommunication with center Jonotthan Harrison.
“He’s got some things to build off,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s got some positives that we can look at and he can build from. He’s got some negatives we’ve got to correct. It’s to be expected in the first game.”
Hackenberg completed his first five passes. He played eight series, scoring on none of them. They ended in six punts, a missed field goal and the fumble.
“It felt good to play again,” Hackenberg said. “There’s some things we have to clean up, but I think overall we did a pretty good job.”
Hackenberg entered the game on the Jets’ second possession of the night. On the first, Josh McCown moved the Jets 78 yards in eight plays. He found Robby Anderson on a 53-yard deep pass where Anderson beat Logan Ryan, the Titans’ big free-agent signing at cornerback. Three plays later, McCown hit Charone Peake for a 4-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Jets lead.
“That was the goal for us coming in when we talked about how we were going to do the reps and everything,” McCown said. “It was just let’s go down and put together a good drive and score and then let the young guys take over.”
McCown went 3-for-4 for 72 yards and the touchdown before calling it a night. Bryce Petty got mop-up duty, playing one series in the third quarter and the entire fourth. Petty completed two of six passes for 16 yards.
The Jets’ starting defense looked dominant against the Marcus Mariota-led Titans. When it was first team vs. first team — the Jets limited the Titans to 28 yards on two series. Leonard Williams sacked Mariota, and the Jets held Tennesee to a three-and-out on their second series.
The Jets now get another week of training camp before heading to Detroit for their second preseason game. McCown figures to see more time in that game, but all eyes will again be on Hackenberg.
Bowles has not put any type of time frame on deciding who his starting quarterback will be for Week 1 in Buffalo on Sept. 10, but it is reasonable to expect a decision after the third preseason game with the Giants in two weeks.
The much-discussed Jets wide receiving corps did OK on Saturday night. Anderson had the big grab from McCown, showing his speed on the 53-yard play as he ran right past Ryan. Anderson caught three passes for 71 yards.
There were several drops in the game by wideouts Jalin Marshall and Myles White and from fullbacks Julian Howsare and Anthony Firkser.
The Jets forced two turnovers in the second half. Safety Ronald Martin intercepted an Alex Tanney pass. Then Anthony Johnson sacked Tanney and forced a fumble that Josh Martin recovered. The Jets’ defense had eight sacks in the game.
YOUNG GUN: Christian Hackenberg throws one of his 25 attempts on the day, going 18-for-25 for 127 yards, but the second-year quarterback was unable to connect on a big play, leaving the Jets scoreless while he was in the game.