Christian Hackenberg’s improvement doesn’t add up
By Bob Lederer
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg of the New York Jets says he is much improved but is he?
It was exciting to read all the newspaper and blog reports from New York Jets’ rookie camp this past week, but it was the out-of-camp word that second-year, former second-round pick, quarterback Christian Hackenberg, is much improved over 2016 that raised my eyebrows. (That wouldn’t take much since he reportedly could not and definitively did not take a single snap from center during his rookie campaign.)
As NJ.com Jets’ beat writer Connor Hughes wrote last month, “Few outside One Jets Drive have seen Christian Hackenberg play… since the quarterback walked off the field in last year’s preseason finale.”
His supposed improvement is interesting because Hackenberg possesses all the raw technical skills needed by a signal caller, from size (6’4″ and 220 pounds) and intelligence, to a prototypical NFL QB’s arm. The best word use to assess his ability last year was “raw.” How has he stepped up his game?
No reviews from players
I haven’t read a single dispatch that described visible improvement – not even one review of his non-contact, open-field throwing by receivers in those drills, and no quotes from coaches. We know he worked out with his Jets’ 2017 targets this offseason because Hackenberg has said so.
Any pronouncement about how Hackenberg’s performance has made (major?) strides would make any Jets’ fan feel a lot more positive about what’s ahead for us in 2017.
In July, we’ll read and hear from football writers about what they see. Even fans attending training camp can see a quarterback’s connections with receivers and backs, passes that are batted down, timing and arm strength creating the ability to hit a receiver on a break and in stride.
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Very few writers are usually equipped to render more than the most basic judgment about a quarterback because his mechanics are so vital and complex; they require a level of technical understanding that beat writers (and I) don’t have. Scribes can press coaches or assistant coaches for analysis of what they see, however competitive considerations curtail sharing of any real insights.
It may be premature to have expectations – good or bad – however with all the talk about a Jets’ quarterback competition this summer, I haven’t read anything definitive about Hackenberg being capable of stepping up to compete.
We’ve only heard from Hackenberg, who spoke at teammate David Harris‘ charity golf outing on Monday, May 15 mostly about being much more comfortable in his own skin than real enhancements to his game.
One final point about Hackenberg’s offseason. I read he hired Jordan Palmer as a personal quarterback coach but saw no indication that new Jets’ quarterback’s coach Jeremy Bates was on the job, working with the guy general manager Mike Maccagnan has continued to tout as a legitimate prospect and the franchise’s great hope at quarterback.
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Yes, Bates had a ton of game tape to review, but none of it focused on Hackenberg. How could he have a clue about him without watching him practice? I don’t know if he spent time with Hackenberg and if he did, how much. It stands to reason that he would have made this a priority. That, too, would also make us all feel legitimately more hopeful about what we will see this fall.