Bryce Petty again finds himself facing the same predicament: trying to separate himself from the pack as the presumed forgotten man.
“You just have to take a lot of mental reps and be ready when your number is called,” he said Tuesday after receiving the fewest reps of any Jets quarterback for the fourth straight practice. “I think I’ve had a lot of experience in that.”
Last year, Petty was third on the team’s four-man depth chart. Now he’s the third man in a three-man battle that seems destined to become a two-man race. Free-agent pickup Josh McCown has taken the first reps of practice since training camp began Saturday, followed by Christian Hackenberg, the 2016 second-round pick who the organization hopes can be the face of the franchise.
And then there’s Petty.
Injuries and demotions led to his unlikely opportunity to be a starter last season, but the 2015 fourth-round pick was far too inconsistent to remove doubts about his progress. He went 1-3 and completed 56.4 percent of his passes while throwing three touchdowns and seven interceptions. That regular-season experience was invaluable for the former Baylor star, who last August feared he’d be one of the Jets’ final roster cuts.
“It’s just been tough,” Petty said a day before the Jets’ final preseason game against the Eagles last year. He completed 4 of 6 for 87 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown to Robby Anderson, before leaving with a shoulder injury.
“From Day 1 it’s been different than, I guess, what I thought. There hasn’t been a whole lot of competition or anything. It’s been 1, 2 and 3, if that makes any sense. ’Cause that’s all I’m going to say about that,” he said at the time, referring to the crowded quarterback room with starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, No. 2 Geno Smith and Hackenberg.
Petty finds himself on a somewhat even playing field with McCown and Hackenberg because all three must learn the complex verbiage of John Morton’s West Coast system. Taking fewer reps behind a 38-year-old and a second-year player isn’t ideal for Petty, but he decided he would enter this year’s camp with a more positive outlook.
“I’ve gone the negative route, ‘Why this? Why that?’ and it hasn’t done well for me,” Petty said this week. “I told myself coming into camp that no matter what, I’m not going to count reps. I’m just going to make sure that I execute every time out there and cheer on those guys because I want them to do the same for me when I’m in there.
“Our group, quarterback-wise, in that room, is really, really healthy. It’s a healthy relationship. It makes it fun coming out to work here every day.”
Todd Bowles has stressed that the competition is far from over and that all three have a shot at winning the job.
“It’s an evaluation period, like I said,” Bowles said when asked for an early assessment of his quarterbacks. “They have some good throws. They have some bad throws. We have to see who is more consistent over time and who makes those plays. In two days, I’m not going to give an overall assessment and say, ‘This guy is one point ahead of that guy.’ It’s a process.”
Unless something drastic happens on the practice field, it appears the process will continue with McCown and Hackenberg getting the bulk of the reps. Bowles said the reps for his two younger quarterbacks will be revised “when they start to impress me.”
He added: “In two days of [padded] practice, there is no first quarterback. There’s no first reps. Everybody is taking first reps regardless of when they take those reps. It doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of guys that are the first one out there. The first one out will be the first one out opening day, not the first one out the fourth day of training camp.”