PHILADELPHIA — The final stat line did little to shake Christian Hackenberg’s confidence.
Despite the errant throws, his brutal pick-6 and just 54 yards on 31 pass attempts Thursday night, the Jets rookie quarterback felt he had taken another step forward.
“I saw things well tonight, what they were doing from that standpoint,” Hackenberg said after the Jets’ 14-6 loss to the Eagles in the final preseason game. “It’s just getting repetition to do it. It was a good opportunity for me to be able to go out there and do that.”
The former Penn State star was called to action after third-stringer Bryce Petty left the game with a right shoulder injury late in the first quarter. But Hackenberg didn’t look good in his second preseason game. Worse, with the Jets on the Eagles’ 11 with 4:05 to go in the third quarter, he threw a pick-6. Eagles safety Ed Reynolds, who returned the interception 90 yards, said, “I was like, ‘There’s no way he is throwing this ball.’ And he threw it.”
After the game, Hackenberg — who was under duress on the play — acknowledged he should have taken the sack instead of trying to force a throw. “Yeah, that was the first thing we said, just take the sack,” he said. “It is something that I will file away.”
The Jets’ makeshift offensive line was partly to blame. But so was the neophyte quarterback.
“We can’t turn it over in the red zone,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “Again, second week in a row we give up a touchdown inside the red zone. No matter who the quarterback is, we can’t give up a touchdown.
“He was up and down. We let rookies play for a long time, so we are going to see their errors and their mistakes. With him, there were a lot of people on the field. Sometimes it looked like him and it wasn’t and sometimes it was him. There were a lot of mistakes on the field that we have to clean up, but it was to be expected.”
Thursday night’s game proved that Hackenberg is very much a work in progress. But the young quarterback wasn’t fazed by his second preseason performance or his stat sheet.
“I think statistics are what they are,” he said. “There is a lot that can be learned from the film, and that is something that we’ll go back and we’ll evaluate. Again, I was very grateful for the opportunity to go out and get the reps. It’s something that I hadn’t had throughout the majority of the preseason, so the last two weeks have been awesome for me, and I think are really going to help me move forward.”