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Todd Bowles confident that Bryce Petty will improve

The Jets’ coach says he has no plans to start backup Christian Hackenberg in the season’s final two games.

Jets' Bryce Petty threw for only 179 yards

Jets' Bryce Petty threw for only 179 yards Sunday in his first start of the season, a 31-19 loss to the Saints in New Orleans. Photo Credit: AP / Scott Clause

The day after his first start of the season, Bryce Petty learned to keep smiling, improve his footwork and not rush throws. Oh yeah, one more thing: He doesn’t have to look over his shoulder for Christian Hackenberg.

Petty’s start was an uneven performance in which he completed 19 of 29 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the Jets’ 31-19 loss to the Saints. On 13 possessions, Petty led four scoring drives. The average start was the 18-yard line, and he had two drives start inside the 10.

“A little anxious on some throws,” Todd Bowles said. “He has to get his footwork down a little bit, but I thought he played with confidence. He missed some throws. He just has to settle himself down, but I think he’ll get better going forward this week.”

Petty will maintain the starting role for the last two games of the season, barring an injury. Bowles was pretty clear on that when asked about the new No. 2 quarterback, Hackenberg, last year’s second-round pick.

“Not right now, no,” Bowles said about starting Hackenberg. “Petty only played one game. He needs to get some reps, and he’s the backup, so he needs some experience.”

Hackenberg does, too, but the Jets have no plans to use him, at least this season.

According to ESPN, if Hackenberg doesn’t get into a game this year, he will become only the third quarterback selected in the first or second round of the common-draft era not to play in his first two NFL seasons. He would join Gene Bradley (1980, second round, Bills) and Jim Kelly (1983, first round, Bills), and the reason Kelly didn’t play for Buffalo until 1986 was because he had signed with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers. Since 1967, of the 67 quarterbacks drafted in the second round, only Bradley and Hackenberg never played an NFL game.

It seems odd not to play Hackenberg given the Jets’ situation, 5-9 and out of postseason contention.

“You may consider it odd, I don’t,” Bowles said. “We have a backup quarterback, (Hackenberg) is waiting to get his chance. That’s really all there is for me.”

Petty seemed pleased he was getting the chance to play after watching Josh McCown start for 13 consecutive weeks. Petty made a few questionable throws that seemed to show he was rusty. At Baylor, Petty operated out of the shotgun, and after eight NFL games he’s still getting used to going under center and making quick throws. His footwork is still off, and in time it should improve.

Petty attempted only two deep passes, but Bowles said the Jets had called for more throws down the field. The Saints kept their safeties deep, preventing those throws, so Petty targeted some passes underneath. To take pressure off him, the Jets used several two tight-end sets and tackle-eligible plays. The Jets ran 28 times for 124 yards and a 4.4 average, their fourth highest of the season.

“Yeah, this whole game is about being in a rhythm, and when you haven’t been in it, you haven’t done it, it takes a second to get back in there and feel it out, if you will,” Petty said.

“You mentioned smiling, that was kind of the one thing I wanted to do the whole time was smile anyways. I’m blessed to play this game, and being in the position of a backup, you’re hungry to play, but you understand the role, so a big thing for me was to just have fun out there, so that’s why I was smiling.”

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