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With four quarterbacks, Jets’ preseason reps at a premium

Geno Smith #7, New York Jets quarterback, throws

Geno Smith #7, New York Jets quarterback, throws a pass during team training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, NJ on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. Credit: James Escher

Todd Bowles has a pretty good idea of what Ryan Fitzpatrick’s workload will be Thursday night. But he wouldn’t divulge the specifics of his plan.

“I would say yes, but any time I’ve had that in my head it hasn’t turned out that way,” Bowles said the day before the Jets’ preseason opener against Jacksonville at MetLife Stadium. “We have a certain number of plays in mind that we’ll set up for him. I’ll talk to (offensive coordinator) Chan (Gailey) and (quarterbacks coach) Kevin (Patullo) about that . . . and we’ll come up with a fair number for all of us.”

The Jets have four quarterbacks to feed, but only Fitzpatrick and backup Geno Smith need to be season-ready in a few weeks. Second-year man Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg have had to make do with limited reps in training camp.

“You evaluate them on the mental part right now,” Bowles said, adding that it’s not difficult to evaluate the two young quarterbacks in practice. “I know Hack isn’t getting as many reps as everybody else and his time will come, but he’s still learning. He’s got a lot to learn. Those guys have been here a year and they’ve learned the system, so it wouldn’t be fair to evaluate him the same as the other three.”

The Jets selected Hackenberg in the second round, a bold move considering his well-publicized accuracy issues. Gailey said now isn’t the right time to make “wholesale” changes with his questionable mechanics. “In general, it takes thousands of reps to change a habit,’’ he said. “So if you’re going to change a habit, you need thousands of offseason reps. You don’t need a few hundred throws a week. That’s a big difference.”

But Hackenberg won’t get anywhere close to that with three other quarterbacks on the roster. Even with his current limitations, the Jets believe in his upside.

“I think we all see his potential and what he can be,” Gailey said. “He has got all the tools, so it’s just a matter of him learning what needs to be done here and then going out and doing it on a consistent basis. That’s the key, consistency, in this league.”

Smith, who went 11-18 as the Jets’ starter in 2013 and 2014, made only one appearance last season, coming off the bench for the injured Fitzpatrick in a 34-20 loss at Oakland in Week 8. Even so, Smith’s game experience is an asset neither Petty nor Hackenberg possesses.

“Yes, he has proven that he can go out and play in ballgames and win ballgames, and you’re right, a lot of people don’t have that,” Gailey said. “And that is a good thing for us to be able to say we have. Not very many teams have it.”

With Fitzpatrick expected to play only a series or two against the Jaguars, the game could go a long way in paving Smith’s road to redemption. This is a new season and a fresh start for the former starter.

“I hope he shows us just what he has shown us in practice,” Gailey said. “That he has a good grasp of the offense and he’s playing very intelligently and throwing that ball accurately.”

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