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Next three games at QB will determine future of Jets’ Bryce Petty

Petty is filling in for the injured Josh McCown, who left with a broken bone in his left hand last Sunday.

Jets quarterback Bryce Petty drops back to pass

Jets quarterback Bryce Petty drops back to pass against the Titans during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

This is it for Bryce Petty.

After working so hard in the Jets’ offseason program, training camp and the preseason, he will be the Jets’ starting quarterback Sunday against the Saints in New Orleans.

Filling in for the injured Josh McCown, he will have three games — that’s it, three games — to prove his worth as an NFL quarterback.

McCown left with a broken bone in his left hand last Sunday and when Petty replaced him, he completed his first pass for 7 yards. Afterward though, Petty’s day turned dreadful and he finished 2-for-9 for 14 yards with a 39.6 quarterback rating.

He gets to start over against a Saints team playing for so much in December. They’re tied for first place in the NFC South and trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2013.

You could say the Jets are playing for nothing, given their 5-8 record and last place standing in the AFC East. But the evaluation of the quarterback position is a high priority.

The Jets know what McCown is, and for a brief moment last season, maybe something was known about Petty who went 1-3 as a late-season starter.

Now it’s different. His wait is over.

“Got to have faith in life,” Petty said. “That’s what I hold onto to, a bunch of conversations and venting sessions whether it be parents or relationships that I have, God’s got you. Work hard and you be a good teammate and things work out for you from that standpoint.”

In six games last season, Petty completed 56.4 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. The 2015 fourth-round pick was supposed to finish the final month of the season, but he suffered a shoulder injury in a 41-3 loss to New England on Dec. 24.

He watched from the sidelines as Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the season, and after an offseason purge of the roster, Petty was given an opportunity to win the starting job in 2017. McCown beat Petty and Christian Hackenberg, the Jets’ 2016 second-round pick, for the job.

Petty had done enough to warrant the No. 2 spot, yet McCown’s season — career-highs in touchdowns, passing yards and completion percentage — kept him on the bench.

Coach Todd Bowles said the only way Petty would get on the field is due to injury. No mop up roles for Petty. And with Petty taking over the job for McCown, Bowles stated he’s not thinking of giving Hackenberg late-season snaps just to see what the second-year QB can do. Bowles categorized it as not jumping one player over another for the sake of it.

Bowles’ thought process is that you earn playing time. And when an opening occurs, you take advantage.

“You can’t take the test until you’re out there,” Bowles said.

Petty doesn’t think this chance is an audition for the starting job.

“Not at all,” he said. “This right here is for these guys in this locker room. I have nothing as far as looking toward the future. It’s for Josh. He set a standard for how to be a professional, how to be a quarterback.”

But the future for the Jets at quarterback is unsettled. McCown signed a one-year deal to become the bridge, but even after his strong 2017 season, his thoughts about returning remain a mystery. McCown’s injury, and a yearning to be closer to his family in Texas, could have strong pull on him to retire.

If MCown doesn’t retire, it could mean another year of waiting for Petty and Hackenberg.

The Jets could move up in the draft and select one of the highly regarded quarterbacks next April. A high-draft pick at quarterback would make Petty expendable as he enters the final year of his contract.

So it really does makes these next three games for Petty important.

“He’s taking everything as a professional,” said right guard Brian Winters, who has known Petty since high school, when they played in an all-star game together. “When you’re not playing you want to play. But he’s very mature about it; he went through it, understands it, [and knows that] his time is now.”

Will he succeed? And if he does, is the small sample size enough for the Jets to believe in him for 2018?

“Patience is part of life and I think that makes what I’m walking into that much better,” Petty said. “We had patience with it and continue to work hard, get better and wait for your opportunity.”

It happens Sunday.

54.2

Bryce Petty’s completion percentage in seven career games.

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