FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets’ most famous rookie has not played a regular-season NFL down, and he is not expected to do so until 2017 at the earliest.
So any full evaluation of general manager Mike Maccagnan’s second draft class remains on hold at least until Christian Hackenberg’s ability — or lack thereof — as a pro quarterback can be assessed.
But in the meantime there are games being played and young talent to develop as fans look past this flop of a season for signs of hope.
And signs there are, even if the Jets do not exactly have any Rookie of the Year candidates. It starts with the first- and third-round picks, Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins, who are starting linebackers.
Lee has had an uneven season and missed three midseason games with an ankle injury, but he has star potential both off and on the field, and said he aspires to be the leader of the team’s young core.
“I think it’s a blessing in disguise, with the whole losing aspect,” he told Newsday after practice Tuesday. “Since we’ve got that taste in our mouth of what it’s like to lose we know the do’s and don’ts, if that makes sense, of what to do to prevent ourselves from losing in the future.”
Lee first must master the pro level himself. He made a couple of key early mistakes Sunday against the 49ers, prompting coach Todd Bowles to yank him for a talking-to.
“Sometimes he gets a little bit too hyper, and when he gets hyper he blows assignments here or there,” Bowles said. “So we had to get him out and calm him down and put him back. He was fine after that.”
Said Lee, “He was right; he’s not wrong. I was just really, really jacked up. I was really hyped. They did that to say, ‘Hey, just breathe, calm down.’ That’s just me. That’s how I am. I’m always juiced up, but that game I was a little more juiced than normal.”
Later Lee was furious on the sideline when the 49ers’ Jimmie Ward shoved quarterback Bryce Petty near the out-of-bounds line, a play initially ruled a personal foul before the officials changed their minds.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re a quarterback on my team and somebody does that, I have a problem,” he said.
Fourth-round pick Juston Burris got extended time at cornerback against the 49ers after playing mostly on special teams. Bowles singled him out for praise and said he would see more action this weekend.
Burris said he understands there are veterans ahead of him and so tried to be patient and work on his game during practice. Darrelle Revis has emerged as a mentor.
“He’s been dominant, and that’s the way I want to be,” Burris said.
Fifth-round pick Brandon Shell could get his first start at offensive tackle this week, the two seventh-round picks, punter Lachlan Edwards and receiver Charone Peake, have gotten meaningful minutes and undrafted Jalin Marshall has shown flashes as a return man.
Arguably the most impactful rookie has been undrafted receiver Robby Anderson, who made two important and difficult catches against the 49ers and has height and speed.
Add it all up and it’s not quite what the Cowboys have in Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, but for a team destined for changes, there is enough intrigue to make the last three games worth watching for fans.
“We have a lot of depth and a lot of young guys who are hungry and ready to play,” Burris said. “Obviously, we have a veteran team and we have a lot of older guys up on the depth chart. But we have a lot of guys who are ready to play and just biding their time and continuing to progress and get better in practice.”
The Jets put OT Breno Giacomini (back/leg/shoulder) and S Marcus Gilchrist (knee) on IR . . . RB Matt Forte (knee) still is day-to-day . . . Dolphins QB Matt Moore started for Bowles in his three games as Miami’s interim coach in 2011. Saturday will be Moore’s first start since, in place of injured Ryan Tannehill. “Matt’s a competitor,” Bowles said. “I know he can throw the football. He’ll be ready.” . . . Bowles “choked down the speed” in practice in a nod to the Jets’ two consecutive short weeks. He said the goal was to “try to be more mental instead of physical.”