Christian Hackenberg was sacked 10 times in Week 1, but perhaps that god-awful total could have been lessened if he had the permission to call audibles or change his protection up front. Unfortunately for him, this isn’t an option.
Hackenberg is one of the quarterbacks NFL scouts are closely observing for the 2016 NFL Draft. But thanks to a ridiculously bad performance by his offensive line (10 sacks allowed) in Week 1, it was hard to get a good handle on what he can do.
Part of the key to performing at the highest level as a quarterback is recognizing what defenses are doing before the snap. Armed with this information, top quarterbacks routinely change plays and alter protection assignments up front.
According to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, however, Hackenberg isn’t being allowed to make any adjustments. Head coach James Franklin is reportedly not keen on his quarterback doing any “thinking.”
FWIW, scouts have told me Hackenberg isn't able to make protection changes or audibles at the line. Franklin doesn't want him "thinking"
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 12, 2015
Perhaps Franklin thinks Hackenberg would muss things up if he does do any “thinking,” but then again, it couldn’t really get much worse than it did for Penn State’s offense in Week 1 against Temple. In addition to the 10 sacks suffered by the quarterback, the Nittany Lions managed just 183 total yards and nine first downs in the embarrassing opening-week loss.
The Owls had their number, and one wonders if things might have been a bit more interesting if Hackenberg had the ability to adjust to what Temple’s defense was doing.
Through the first half against Buffalo in Week 2, Hackenberg hadn’t been sacked once, but he also didn’t perform much better than he did in Week 1 against Temple. Worse still for Penn State, left tackle Andrew Nelson was injured and appeared to be in a high degree of pain as he headed off the field.
At this point, Hackenberg’s status as a potential NFL draft pick seems to be diminishing by the week. And, the fact that his coach doesn’t think highly enough of his ability to think on the field should raise some eyebrows in the scouting community—if not a big red flag.