As the Jets’ search for a quarterback continues over the next month through free agency and the draft, Christian Hackenberg remains in limbo.
The second-round pick from Penn State in 2016 has yet to take a snap in a regular-season game, and time is running out.
“We’ll see what his role is going forward,” coach Todd Bowles said of Hackenberg at the NFL Combine last week. “He got a little more playing time last year in preseason, not so much in the season. But he’s got to get better going forward. Some things he’s got to correct, and he knows that as well as we’re telling him that. We’ll see how he comes out in the spring.”
Last season, Josh McCown battled for the starting job with Bryce Petty and Hackenberg. The Jets were determined to let their younger quarterbacks win the competition, but they failed. McCown produced one of his best seasons as a pro and made 13 starts — tying a career high — before suffering a broken hand.
Bowles elected to play Petty over Hackenberg in the remaining three games. His philosophy is that players earn playing time regardless of the position, and in his eyes, Petty was better than Hackenberg.
“Christian’s made progress so far,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said. “I know he hasn’t had a chance to do it in a regular-season game, but we had a good chance to see him in the preseason. Him and Bryce, we’re excited to see how those guys do. This will be a big offseason for both of those guys.”
As it stands, Petty and Hackenberg are the only quarterbacks the Jets have under contract on the 53-man roster. McCown is a free agent and could be back if the Jets don’t sign Kirk Cousins or another veteran. They have the No. 6 overall pick and could get their future quarterback in the draft.
It appears Hackenberg and Petty could be fighting for a roster spot in 2018. The Jets know what they have in Petty, 1-6 as a starter with a 53.1 completion percentage. Hackenberg? In six preseason games, zero starts, he’s completed 48.7 percent of his passes for 531 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
To get more time, Hackenberg must surpass Petty by outplaying him in the preseason and during training camp, something he’s failed to do.
It looks as if he’ll get another chance, but with the Jets seeking to use a high draft pick or spend big money on a quarterback, it might be too late.
“He’s got to correct a lot of things, obviously,” Bowles said. “The more he plays, the more he’ll correct. He is a young guy. The more time he plays or gets to play . . . You’ve got to earn that playing time, so it’s a tricky situation there. So we’ll see what he corrects in the spring.”