For the New York Jets, hope is in the air after they drafted a developmental quarterback in Christian Hackenberg that can be molded for a bright future.
This past weekend, the Jets’ 2016 Draftees, 13 undrafted free agents and 22 tryout invitees, in addition to the coaching staff, descended upon 1 Jets Drive in Florham Park, New Jersey to complete the first of three weekend workouts. The rookie minicamp is held at the discretion of the head coach, and while the Miami Dolphins, for example, opted not to hold it, head coach Todd Bowles thought differently.
According to the New York Jets Media Relations Department, Bowles said “If we didn’t draft a quarterback I wasn’t going to have one either, but when you draft a quarterback, they have to go through the process and learn. It’s good for them to go through the three days. But the quarterback has to get acclimated mentally”.
So how did polarizing former Penn State University quarterback perform on his first day in green and white?
And, more importantly, what first impressions did he make on Bowles and the offensive coaching staff?
After closely watching, it seems as though Bowles holds cautious optimism for Hackenberg. Overall, Bowles remarked that Friday’s workout “was a healthy learning process for him”. Noting Hackenberg “has a strong arm”, for his rookie minicamp expectations, Bowles also told the media: “You’re just looking for him to learn the system and get acclimated. Right now it is about teaching and understanding what we do”.
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In the grand scheme of things, there are two areas of concern right off the bat when it comes to Hackenberg.
First off, Hackenberg got sacked a whole lot in his collegiate career.
Playing with a swiss cheese offensive line for much of his career at Penn State University, Hackenberg was dropped behind the line of scrimmage over 100 times in his career, some of which being rather vicious.
Although the fear of being sacked in the NFL, where defenders are infinitely faster and harder-hitting, may force some quarterbacks (rookie and veteran) to take a premature dive or make a poor decision downfield, Bowles does not seem to be worried about Hackenberg.
He stated: “I think quarterbacks have taken a beating before and I give him credit for standing in there that long. You get sacked in this league and you get sacked in college, the fact that you stand in there tough and play, I don’t look at it any differently. The sacks had nothing to do with the quarterback. Obviously if you get shell shocked, and some people have, that’s one thing, but he’s played through a lot of things so I don’t have a problem with it”
Secondly, it’s all about the fundamentals when it comes to being a starting quarterback. Before continuing, please click and watch a red-faced Hackenberg try to explain his foot placement on Coach Gruden’s QB camp below:
Clearly, a football fundamental of pre-snap foot placement was lost on Hackenberg as he progressed through Penn State’s system. Critics may speculate as to what other fundamentals Hackenberg may be doing incorrectly, supporters may dismiss it as a result of poor coaching. Bowles had this to say about it: “We all have bad habits. I mean, you see mistakes, I don’t know if you see bad habits. We can take every person in the draft and say they have bad habits, as well as ourselves. We saw enough that we are positive in what we have and we are willing to work with him, and we’re fine with that”.
It seems as though Bowles and his young quarterback Hackenberg are very much in-tune with the stark criticisms in the New York media and beyond. Bowles also said about the criticism he will face: “There is nothing to say. You can criticize everyone in the draft. We understand his criticism. You take a hope at potential and understand that they’re willing to learn and go with it”. As for Hackenberg, with yesterday’s tweet, all he asks is for patience.
— Christian Hackenberg (@chackenberg1) May 6, 2016
Although Jets fans hotly disapprove of the team drafting yet another quarterback, especially in round two, they may wish to keep their minds open and remember that Drew Brees, Super Bowl winning quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, was also a second round pick.
With the intense uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position for the Jets, it seems as though Hackenberg, after his first taste of rookie minicamp, a practice with no pads and no defense, can give fans something about which to smile (albeit cautiously). Hold onto your hats Jets fans, this summer’s training camp is shaping up to be a wild one.