Christian Hackenberg played the overwhelming majority of the New York Jets reps at quarterback against the Tennessee Titans. This is likely to be the case this week against the Detroit Lions as well. How did Hackenberg, the only candidate on the team’s roster to be the long term quarterback, play against the Titans? Let’s take a deep dive into the statistics and film to find out…
Final Stat Line:
- 18/25 (72%), 127 yards, 5.1 YPA, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
- Sacked once for an eleven yard loss
- 1 lost fumble on center/quarterback exchange. 1 fumble on a running back exchange (recovered by Jets).
- 0 points generated from offense while on field
- 2 used timeouts when play clock was winding down
- 13 from shotgun
- 12 under center
- 3 play action attempts
*He was also sacked from the shotgun alignment and fumbled his snap under center, those two are not counted above.
Completions By Route
- 6 screen or swing routes
- 4 hitch routes
- 3 out routes
- 2 flat routes
- 2 crossing routes
- 1 slant route
Incompletions By Route
- 2 nine/go routes
- 1 crossing route
- 1 drop on out route
- 1 drop on hitch route
- 1 batted ball on slant route (dropped interception by Titans)
- 1 throwaway on hitch route
Hackenberg was decisive with the football and threw with good velocity into tight windows. He did not let mistakes or incompletions snowball on him. On third down, he was able to move the chains multiple times and looked substantially more comfortable in the pocket than he did last preseason.
On arguably his best throw of the night, he flashes a quick release and drops in a play action out route to Marquess Wilson over the linebacker and in front of the corner.
On his first third down, he is able to take advantage of man coverage with his arm strength by firing in this slant route to Chris Harper.
Later in the game, he shows patience on third down, letting the crossing route from Myles White develop and open up. He puts the ball in front of him, allowing the receiver to pick up a few extra yards.
Hackenberg still needs to make substantial strides when it comes to having command of the huddle and of the game. You cannot blow two timeouts because the play clock is winding down in two quarters of play. You cannot muff a handoff. You cannot botch a snap and give the ball away on your side of the field. These are day one type mistakes that can be devastating to an already talent challenged offense and part of the reason Josh McCown is still ahead of him on the depth chart.
Despite not calling the plays yet, Hackenberg does have the ability to audible and work to his second reads. This was a three step, one read game. Some of that is on the play calling and bringing him along slowly, some of that is on Hackenberg. Either way, it is not a sustainable way to run an offense. Defenses are going to squat on the hitch, slant and screen routes. The Titans were already already squatting on the screen routes, which is why despite completing six of them, none of them gained any significant yardage and in many cases lost yards.
This is what happens when you play one read too much. Defenders get into the passing lane and create easy opportunities for interceptions.
You also don’t give your team a chance to convert on third and long. Hackenberg knows before this 3rd and 11 that the ball is going to Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a 5 yard out. The other routes are never even given a chance to develop. A defense is going to give up this completion 10 out of 10 times. It makes your completion percentage look pretty but does nothing to help the offense.
Finally, the few times Hackenberg attacked down he field, accuracy was clearly still an issue. Nobody is saying these receivers are wide open but generally receivers don’t get wide open in the NFL. You need to keep the ball in bounds to give them a chance to compete. If you throw the ball out of bounds, you are just Blake Bortles.
This was a step in the right direction from last preseason, which to be candid was a relatively low bar to clear. Hackenberg is on track to start the season as the backup before replacing Josh McCown probably some time in October. Hopefully by then, he is attacking down the field with more consistency, cleaning up basic mistakes and is being given more of the playbook from John Morton.
Analyzing Hackenberg is going to be a frustrating thing for anybody covering the team in 2017. This is a quarterback starved fanbase who is going to be hypersensitive to any commentary that does not proclaim him a future franchise quarterback. Analyzing Hackenberg with kid gloves, particularly when he is a second year player, does no benefit to anyone. If the Jets analyze him like that, they are going to make a potentially franchise crippling decision next offseason. If fans only consume analysis like that, they are going to be led on and disappointed. Hackenberg remains a project but he has until December to show the Jets should pass on a quarterback next year. The clock is ticking.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com