Rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg of the New York Jets hasn’t played well at all during the preseason. Although the rookie hasn’t had a lot of time to play, should his overall play and development so far be a concern?
The preseason has come to an end and so has the time rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg will spend on the field this season. As a rookie taken after the first round, it’s common for him to sit and learn behind an established veteran for a year, maybe two or longer depending on the situation.
Barring freak injuries to starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, backup Geno Smith and possibly Bryce Petty, he won’t be suited up on game day anytime soon. Perhaps it’s a good thing Hackenberg will be sat on the bench after his performance the last two weeks.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why are we over analyzing the performance of a second round quarterback who’s only appeared in the final two preseason games? Well, despite a promising effort against the New York Giants, Hackenberg did everything he could to make sure Jets fans were hiding behind a pillow.
Jets Nation witnessed what was a woeful performance in which he went for a horrific 11 for 31 passing, 54 yards, and a pick-six. Halloween is two months away, however Jet fans were certainly having a fright night watching their young quarterback self-destruct.
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With other rookies at the quarterback position such as Dak Prescott lighting it up in his first preseason, which resulted in him being appointed the Week 1 starter to step in for the broken Tony Romo, are we expecting too much of Hackenberg?
The answer to that question as Jets fans is no.
With every rookie quarterback, there is hope that he is the franchise player we’ve been looking for since Joe Namath hung up his cleats all those years ago.
Every quarterback responds differently to their first experience in the NFL.
Some flourish and pick it up quickly, others need more time. Hackenberg is no doubt in the latter category.
It’s normal for rookies to struggle when they first play due to their background in different offenses. Petty, who came from a spread offense at Baylor is an example of this, although he’s shown enough improvement in his second year that the Jets should hold on to him so he can develop further.
Hackenberg was once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick whilst at Penn State under head coach Bill O’Brien, catching the eye of NFL scouts around the league playing in his pro-style offense. Once O’Brien returned to the NFL to coach the Houston Texans, no one imagined that Hackenberg would struggle as much as he did.
James Franklin was introduced as the new coach in town and quickly implemented his spread offense at the school. The result of this was Hackenberg’s less than stellar final years which was so underwhelming, many analysts considered the Jets decision to select him in the second round of this year’s draft as a reach.
Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) in the tunnel before game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Hackenberg is a project. Playing behind a shaky offensive line in his final years, Hackenberg’s confidence was shot due to the obscene amount of sacks he took and quite frankly, still is. It’s going to take some time for him to adjust to the NFL and get back to what he was so good at earlier in his college career.
Did the Jets make a mistake picking him as early as the second round? Maybe. We won’t know that until perhaps three years later when he could possibly be starting for the team depending on how he develops. The Jets could have drafted him as late as the fourth or fifth round. Many teams around the league seen him as damaged goods, and for good reason. The Jets, however, felt differently enough to draft him as early as they did.
With a veteran presence and leadership on the team courtesy of Fitzpatrick, Hackenberg is in the right situation. We’ve seen what happens when an unprepared rookie is thrown into the deep end too quickly with Smith and Mark Sanchez. This current regime will be sure not to make that mistake with Hackenberg.
If Hackenberg is given the time he needs to get to that next level, then the Jets could be rewarded greatly. There must have been something about his game that made his coaches and media rave so early in his career, right?