Pressure is on Christian Hackenberg

May 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) answers questions from media during OTA at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
May 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) answers questions from media during OTA at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

As the New York Jets continue in preseason football, quarterback Christian Hackenberg has a ton of pressure on his shoulder to prove he’s progressing so far.

There’s a reason the NFL decides to play games that don’t count. For rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg to see the field this season, he would actually have to be the last healthy quarterback available in the world, and that’s not a joke. However, Hackenberg’s spot on the roster will not be up for grabs, as the New York Jets have too much invested at this point in time. For the sake of his future, and general manager Mike Maccagnan’s reputation, it is crucial that Hackenberg performs in limited action.

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According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, finding a quality quarterback in the second round isn’t a pipe dream. In fact, some research shows that quarterbacks taken early in the second round actually have a better success rate than those taken late in the first round. Barnwell also makes the following comment regarding the history of a quarterback’s success and his draft position:

If organizations that need a quarterback have passed on you twice, chances are you aren’t a very good one.

Hackenberg was taken with the 51st pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. That puts him in the range of the second half of the second round. That would mean teams in “need” of a quarterback – meaning teams with picks in the first half of a round – passed on Hackenberg twice. So, do the Jets have a reject on their hands?

Just 21-years-old at 6’4″ and 228 pounds, Hackenberg fits the physical mold of an NFL gunslinger. For the class of 2013, Hackenberg was considered the best pro-style quarterback out of high school by ESPN. He was then the Big Ten Freshmen of the year at Penn State. Everything was looking up for Hackenberg, who was on track to be a top NFL Draft pick, until his sophomore season.

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Struggles began to engulf Hackenberg and had a negative effect on his draft stock.

He became known for inaccuracy, lack of poise and inability to win games.

Pro Football Focus went as far to give him a grade as undraftable.

He still hasn’t fully recovered.

Where does Penn State football rule? Obviously that’s a trick question, because the answer is Pennsylvania. The media swirl around that team is no different than any other football-crazed community. Reports of Hackenberg struggling in camp (as reported by Steve Heiser of the York Dispatch) have made their way to New York’s and New Jersey’s neighbor. While the criticism is way too early, if he’s not able to escape his demons early in his career, Hackenberg will not escape it any time soon.

Since 2010, the following quarterbacks have been drafted in the second round: Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Geno Smith, Brock Osweiler, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Jimmy Clausen. All have seen or will see significant NFL action, at varying levels of success. One of Hackenberg’s biggest assets is his age as he’s very young. The Jets could follow the path of the Green Bay Packers and let Hackenberg sit for several years before giving him control of the offense . If Chan Gailey is on the Jets’ staff long-term, this could provide massive benefits in the long run.

For now, Hackenberg will have to show some signs of NFL ability, even if he only sees the field against third and fourth-string defenders.

What exactly should the Jets be looking for? He doesn’t have to complete 90% of his passes, or throw five touchdown passes. He has to show signs of the assets he has that makes him worth investing time in. Attributes such as physicality and the ability to conduct a pro-style offense efficiently.

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Maybe Penn State wasn’t the best situation for him. There must be some reason he would leave a year early from college, when he had so much more to prove. It should also be known that Hackenberg had an offer from Alabama. In the SEC, where physicality and size are trademarks, we may have had a clearer picture of Hackenberg’s worth. His assets would have been put to the test, and the weaponry around him may have allowed him to flourish. Now, we have to see some signs of life at the professional level.