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What were most and least encouraged by in the New York Jets preseason game against the New York Giants?
Joe Caporoso: Despite mostly being against second and third team players, it was encouraging to see rookie receivers ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen consistently get open and make plays. Bilal Powell had no business playing in the second half but continued to show why he is such a weapon with a 80+ yard touchdown reception, how often do you see plays that long from the Jets? Bryce Petty’s performance needs to be taken with a grain of salt considering the competition but his mechanics and placement were notably improved from last year. He made plays and has taken advantage of his opportunities, earning himself the backup quarterback job and showing he should be the first young QB off the bench when Josh McCown is inevitably replaced.
On the other side, there is no need to beat a dead horse but Christian Hackenberg cemented a deserved a position on the inactive list for the 2017 season. Elsewhere, Matt Forte getting such extended work was mildly concerning and brought back flashbacks to last season of him getting 20+ touches while Powell flounders on the bench. Buster Skrine had a rough night in the slot and it has been a quiet preseason for Muhammad Wilkerson.
Dalbin Osorio: Most encouraging had to be the play of the Axe Man Ardarius Stewart and To Catch A Touchdown Chad Hansen, because they both were lights out in their route running and showed off the potential to really help this offense and whoever is under center. Stewart and Hansen represent unique skill sets that John Morton needs to utilize consistently. Start Hansen on the outside with Robby Runaway Anderson, and place Stewart in the slot repeatedly. That’s how you make your QB’s job easier; give him consistent options, instead of a revolving door at WR. Kudos to Todd Bowles for running legitimate competitions at almost every position this training camp, by the way.
The least encouraging thing was the offensive line. No, this does not absolve Christian Hackenberg from being the worst quarterback I’ve seen in a Jets uniform. He was that bad, but the offensive line (particularly Brandon Shell) had a god awful game. Now, granted, they will not be playing the Giants every week, but Jerry Hughes is waiting Week 1, Khalil Mack in Week 2, and then you have Suh and Wake in Week 3. Then, its Malik Jackson, followed by Myles Garrett, the Patriots, Suh and Wake again, and then a date with Vic Beasley. Then you get Buffalo again, followed by Noah Spence and the Bucs before the bye. There will be no reprieve for this unit, and they need to start jelling or this is going to be a longer than expected season. Granted, Bryce Petty has shown that he can be ok behind whoever you put in front of him it seems, although let’s not get ahead of ourselves; he was god awful last year against San Francisco, so it was encouraging to see him be better mechanically than Boy Wonder.
Scott Mason: Most encouraged would be Bryce Petty as well as the rookie tandem of Ardarius Stewart and Chad Hansen. Stewart had some injury issues and Hansen hadn’t done much in the first two games but both guys looked like legitimate NFL caliber receivers Saturday night. I would like to see both guys start alongside Robby Anderson on opening day. As for Bryce Petty – who thankfully won’t be lost to an ACL tear – he may have been playing against backups but he showed a real rapport with the receivers, a much improved presence in the pocket, and the arm talent we always knew he had. It makes you wonder what could have happened if Bowles had given him more reps all along instead of only increasing them last week. I still don’t see Petty as the answer at QB, but whereas I once advocated just cutting him, I’ve seen enough improvement to think that it is possible for him to develop into a solid backup the Jets could keep for a while, something the team hasn’t had at the QB position since Pat Ryan, who was a fairly strong understudy for both Richard Todd and Ken O’Brien.
Least encouraged is obviously Christian Hackenberg. I really wanted to believe Maccagnan knew something others didn’t when he stunningly drafted Hackenberg in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft, but it is very clear now that the former Penn State signal caller is nowhere near ready to play in the NFL and may never be. His performance on Saturday was scary bad and if there was any thought he could be the starter opening day, that is out the window now. There have been people suggesting that perhaps the Jets should cut Hackenberg and then bring him back on the practice squad after nobody signs him. I don’t see this move happening because I doubt Maccagnan has the stones to cut bait so early on such a high profile pick like that and I do think it is possible Hackenberg could catch on as a 3rd stringer somewhere (possibly Houston with his old coach Bill O’Brien). But whereas a few weeks ago, just cutting Hackenberg would have been completely unfathomable, it is something the team has to at least consider now.
Daniel Essien: In the Jets preseason game against the Giants, I was most encouraged by the DBs. With Claiborne out it was a great opportunity to see what the other less proven guys can do with extended playing time. Although, the Giants were able to get some traction on the Jets defense through the air at times, I was pleased to see noticeably improved play from Daryl Roberts, Juston Burris, and Buster Skrine. Although Jamal Adams missed a few tackles, he also made a nice play in coverage on a fade route in the endzone. The main goal for this season is growth and I think its fair to say we’ve seen some growth already from the Jets young secondary.
I was least encouraged by the Jets offense in the first half, particularly Christian Hackenberg. He continues to make the same mistakes and add some new ones to the mix. What you want to see from him is progress but he hasn’t shown the ability to learn from his errors and show any type of consistency yet. It’s unrealistic to think he’ll magically put it together without displaying some type of progress. This preseason was his time to show he can lead the offense and he’s failed to do that so far. His performance has mirrored that of the offensive line, which has struggled mightily this preseason as well. Positional competitions, like the one at right tackle, are almost pointless if both players involved are playing poorly. Jets have to hope their offensive line can learn and gel on the fly as they navigate their issues at QB.
David Aitken: Echoing others it was nice to see rookie receivers ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen get more involved and produce. For the time being it remains strange the reluctance to get them more involved with the first team throughout the preseason, but hopefully a strong final showing on Thursday has them firmly in the plans once the regular season is under way.
It is obvious that the defense, though clearly still with warts, is going to be the sole source of any pride this year. Sheldon Richardon, possibly still in the shop window, has been a wrecking ball this preseason and he was as impressive as ever against the Giants. The developing young talents with the spotlight – Juston Burris, Darron Lee, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye – were a mixed bag but they all stand to benefit most from this commitment to youth. Adams in particular was up and down. His red zone pass defense against Evan Engram is exactly the kind of play that made him a desirable top ten talent yet he’s been way more sloppy than anticipated so far in tackle support.
The least encouraging thing about Saturday was clearly Christian Hackenberg and it’s hard to find the words to quite do justice what a train wreck his “development” has been as a whole. For a player supposedly lauded for football intelligence and pro style experience coming into the league, he looks most lost of all with pre-snap decisions and being decisive on where to go with the football. It’s becoming a very troubling overall indictment on Maccagnan.
Jake Benaquisto: I was most encouraged, and surprised, by how well Bryce Petty played. Although Petty was facing a backup defense, I was really impressed by his poise in the pocket. After watching Hackenberg constantly stare down receivers for two games in a row, it was refreshing to see Petty go through his progressions and find open targets. It’s shocking that we’re at this point, but if McCown struggles or gets hurt in the regular season, Petty should absolutely take over. My only concern with Petty is his durability. He was hurt in college, got hurt last season, and almost tore his ACL against the Giants. I don’t think he’ll be the QB of the future, but it was nice to see Petty have command of the offense.
As many have said, it’s safe to say that Christian Hackenberg was once again the least encouraging. If there is anyone out there that continues to justify taking him with a second round pick, than I don’t know what to tell you. For the second week in a row, Hack seemed to completely rely on his first read. He didn’t stretch the field often, but when he did, he under threw Robby Anderson, who was wide open. One could argue that the offensive line is a major reason for his struggles, but Hackenberg should be able to read defenses better and recognize when the blitz is coming.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com