When the New York Jets exhausted a second-round pick on former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg this spring, it threw many for a loop.
Considered a potential top-10 pick after putting up a solid freshman campaign in 2013, Hackenberg regressed considerably in his final two seasons with Penn State.
Add in a horrendous performance at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February, and common logic seemed to suggest that the floundering signal caller was nothing more than a mid-to-late round pick.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick still on the free agent market and two less-than-desirable internal options on the roster, the importance of Hackenberg proving skeptics wrong has been magnified even further this summer.
Unfortunately, various observations from Jets organized team activities seem to suggest that the rookie quarterback is struggling big time.
“Right now, he looks like a typical rookie. His passes are fluttering, his footwork is robotic and he tends to miss high when he misses a receiver,” ESPN’s Rich Cimini noted over the weekend. “In last Wednesday’s practice, he sailed two consecutive 15-yard passes over the head of a tight end — against air. That’s right, there was no defense. He had a couple of nice moments later in a two-minute drill, but it wasn’t a great practice.”
Rookie quarterbacks struggling in their first summer on the job shouldn’t be considered too much of a surprise. Though, the issues Cimini notes are the same exact ones that were evident on tape at Penn State.
“Right now I expect him to look sloppy because he’s seeing a whole boat load of defenses that are coming at him daily,” head coach Todd Bowles said. “And there’s going to be a growth period.”
That’s fine and dandy, but he’s apparently struggling making the common throw against air. How’s that going to translate in training camp and the preseason when there are actual defenders on the field?
As of right now, Geno Smith has to be considered the Jets’ starting quarterback. If the Fitzpatrick issue is settled here soon, he will then be the team’s starter.
New York may be ways away from actually relying on Hackenberg, but it’s obvious he’s nowhere near ready to make an impact on a NFL field. Whether that changes moving forward is anyone’s guess.