New York Jets: Why Christian Hackenberg is the future

Nov 28, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) drops back to pass the ball during the 2nd half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) drops back to pass the ball during the 2nd half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Jets made another smart decision in the 2016 NFL Draft when they selected quarterback Christian Hackenberg to groom into a future franchise quarterback.

The draft is officially over and the Jets left the yearly event as winners by selecting players to address immediate need and also cultivate for the future. Coming into this year’s draft, three major areas of need for the Jets were offensive line, linebacker and quarterback. In just two days, general manager Mike Maccagnan filled most of those holes. The one pick however that seems to causing the most problems for fans and seems to be splitting them up between loving it and hating is the second round selection of quarterback from Penn State, Christian Hackenberg.

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Most fans knew that at some point in this draft the Jets were going to select a quarterback, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick holding out for more money. Many fans were hoping the Jets would possibly draft Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, but Maccagnan passed on him for the very talented linebacker in Darron Lee.

When Hackenberg’s name was called, fans on Twitter simply exploded with a mixture of love and hate for the selection. Many would have preferred Michigan State’s quarterback Connor Cook, however he has been compared to former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Mccarron has struggled immensely in the NFL and seems like he may be stuck as a career backup instead of the star many thought he would be out of college. With a comparison like that, it is no wonder many teams shied away from Cook in the beginning three rounds.

When looking at Hackenberg and the time he has spent over at Penn State, many say that while the talent is there, his stats make it scary for any team looking at him. However, what some fans that go by strictly numbers fail to see is that there have been many factors to cause Hackenberg to produce such low stats.

He started out his college career under the guidance of now Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. Under O’Brien, Hackenberg looked like a kid that will become a very good NFL quarterback. Unfortunately, over the next two years Hackenberg would not only lose his coach but also his offensive line. For the last two seasons, Hackenberg played with arguably the worst offensive line in college football.

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The result was Hackenberg being sacked for over 103 times, in comparison, Lynch was only sacked 57 times in his college career which is 46 less times than Hackenberg.

The constant barrage of sacks that Hackenberg had to deal with over his time at Penn State would have ended some players careers and even ruined their play-style completely.

Let’s start with the negatives when looking at Hackenberg’s tape and stats.

When you glance at his stats, you tend to notice that his completion percentage hovers around 50%, which is horrible for a quarterback.

To really see why his completion percentage is like that you have to go into his tape. While watching any of the games that he has played in the past two seasons, you begin to notice two things. One, he never has a chance to truly get set up and to make his reads. The offensive line tended to break down immediately after the call and the defense would usually be on the quarterback between 3-5 seconds after the snap.

This causes the quarterback (Hackenberg) to want to get the ball out of his hands faster and would tend to develop lazy footwork. This brings us to the second thing you notice, Hackenberg has immensely lazy footwork when he is in the shotgun or pistol formation. When he throws the ball from these formations, his body language is evident and you can see the desperation to get the ball out as fast as possible. This tends to result in the ball either being off target or overthrown.

These two things can be considered the two main negatives that Hackenberg will have to deal with. The first negative is not necessarily his fault, however he is at a new team now and will have to erase his memory of the terrible offensive line he behind in at Penn State and start anew with the Jets’ offensive line.

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Oct 31, 2015; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) calls signals at the line against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the third quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State won 39-0. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Now onto the positives that is seen in his college tape. The immensely positive attribute that Hackenberg has that can truly make him one of the better quarterbacks in his draft class is the fact that he already possesses the ability and knowledge of changing the play at the line of scrimmage and reading the defense.

While watching his game tape if you watch him carefully, Hackenberg tends to look over the defense and begins to make changes to the play. Something even first-round quarterback Lynch fails to do. You can tell from his presence on the field and the way he is able to control the offense with precision. One game in particular is the Temple game in the beginning of last season.

While Hackenberg did not have a good game by any means, he was plagued by a terrible offensive line that looked more like a middle school one than a college one that allowed in 10 sacks during the entire game. Throughout the entirety of the game, it seemed like it was a battle between Hackenberg and the Temple defense. You could even see Hackenberg testing the defense to try and find the coverage they decided to use in that moment and trying to adjust the plays accordingly. It can be argued that if he had a more solid offensive line, he would have picked that defense apart easily.

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The next big positive for Hackenberg is his natural talent. His arm strength and natural arm talent is one that resembles a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers. While arm strength isn’t everything for a player, it is a very good bonus to have. In the end, there is a lot of upside that comes with this Hackenberg pick and if the Jets develop him correctly, they can possibly have their future franchise quarterback in their hands.

Time will tell whether this pick works out or not but…

“In Macc I Trust!”