FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Todd Bowles does not expect Christian Hackenberg to make his star turn Saturday night. He doesn’t necessarily envision Hackenberg having a breakout game against the Titans and proving his naysayers wrong. The quarterback does not haunt his every waking thought and, come the preseason opener, there’s every chance he won’t even top his depth chart.
“I’m looking at a successful game for the team,” Bowles said yesterday after fielding question after question about the quarterback competition between Hackenberg and Josh McCown (and sure, Bryce Petty, too).
“I’m not really hoping for Christian to have a breakout or non-breakout game. I hope we make progress as an offense and as a team, and whatever game Christian has, he has. I want him to play well; I want all these guys to play well. So we’ll go from there. I’m not basing it solely as Christian’s star debut as a movie theater actor.”
Bowles preached patience with a view toward growth and progress for Hackenberg. All three quarterbacks will play Saturday night, he said, with the competition “pretty even,” though Petty has seen fewer first-team snaps than the other two and doesn’t truly appear to be in the running.
The Jets have not decided who will start, but they have decided that Hackenberg, though still very much a work in progress, will see plenty of time with the first-team offense.
Yesterday, Hackenberg was first in Bowles’ rotation, a spot often occupied by the 38-year-old McCown this preseason. Hackenberg had only one full-speed completion in very limited reps but also was victimized by at least two drops. He had a near-interception, too. Petty threw a pick; McCown was perfect in three tries.
“I’m not expecting him to go out there and be Roger Staubach,” Bowles said of Hackenberg. “If he is, so be it, but just try and get him better. He’s 22 years old. The kid’s got to get a chance to play and make some mistakes and grow from it, come back from adversity and make some plays. We just want to see his overall play, and as the preseason goes, see how he does.
“He’s not going to be Danny White, either,” Bowles added before facetiously offering to go down the line of former Cowboys quarterbacks.
Hackenberg has had his detractors from the moment the Jets drafted him last year, though it’s hard to see exactly what the Jets could lose from setting him loose. Besides his four interceptions Tuesday and Wednesday, he’s been known to hold the ball a beat too long. Losing reliable target Quincy Enunwa for the season will hurt, and on Saturday, he’ll likely be missing running back Matt Forte (hamstring).
But no matter. Mistakes are part of the game, especially for someone still battling the complexities of learning the offense, and it’s better for Hackenberg to get them out of the way now, Bowles said.
“You want him to get better every week,” he said. “You can’t compare last year to this year because he barely played, so this will be his first time out. And if he commands the offense and does the things he’s supposed to do, that’s progress, and we’ll go from there.”