Christian Hackenberg appears to be making up ground on NFL journeyman Josh McCown in the competition to become the New York Jets’ starting quarterback.
Darryl Slater of NJ.com has kept track of the reps in Florham Park, N.J., with Hackenberg and McCown tallying 22 apiece Monday. Through the first three days of training camp, McCown has logged 62 to Hackenberg’s 53. Bryce Petty, a fourth-round pick of the Jets in the 2015 draft, is currently back in third place — only receiving 36 snaps thus far.
The team’s general manager, Mike Maccagnan, offered an interesting take on the situation Monday, also per NJ.com.
“Going back from a year ago, Christian I think has made good progress,” Maccagnan said. “Of course, it’s all in shorts and T-shirts…but he’s done some good things this offseason. We’re kind of excited about him, along with Bryce and Josh.”
The phrase “kind of excited” doesn’t particularly stir up confidence in Hackenberg’s ability to win the job at some point this season, but he certainly has a higher upside than the 38-year-old McCown. Right now, Hackenberg, 22, is the future of the franchise. The only question is whether he’s ready to be the present?
Since entering the league in 2002, McCown has bounced around to 10 different cities. He even spent the 2010 season with the Hartford Colonials of the now-defunct UFL. While Hackenberg undoubtedly boasts more arm talent than McCown, the Jets have made it clear that they don’t mind if a seasoned system quarterback runs the show. (See: Ryan Fitzpatrick).
New York selected Hackenberg with the No. 51 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but Penn State’s all-time leader in passing yards has yet to record his first pro appearance. However, the top two names from last year’s depth chart are now on different rosters.
After starting 27 games for the Jets in 2015-16, Fitzpatrick signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay to back up Jameis Winston. Geno Smith will still spend half his Sundays at MetLife Stadium this fall, only he’ll be wearing the Giants’ red and blue instead.
New York will almost assuredly take the safe route and tab McCown as its Week 1 starter, allowing Hackenberg to learn from another veteran as he continues to refine his game. But McCown’s no more than a stopgap.
If the Jets want to make a serious run at an AFC Wild Card spot, not just settle for a second straight 5-11 record, why shouldn’t they go all in on Hackenberg a few weeks into the season?