By Nick Shook
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We know preseason wins don’t really mean anything, but for the Jets, it was nice to start off on the right foot.
That was especially true for Christian Hackenberg.
The second-year quarterback from Penn State saw his most significant action as a Jet on Saturday, completing 18 of 25 passes for 127 yards and earning a glowing review from gritty, journeyman quarterback Josh McCown.
“I was so proud of Hack tonight because you have little hiccups here and there that happen, that weren’t necessarily his fault,” McCown said, via the team’s official site. “But he kept battling and played within the game.”
New York’s staff did Hackenberg a favor, getting the passer into a groove by starting him off with a handful of quick passes. Two connections with Robby Anderson and one with fullback Anthony Firkser got Hackenberg in rhythm, which didn’t always result in chain-moving completions but at least allowed the quarterback to attempt a variety of throws.
“I felt great,” Hackenberg said. “There are two or three throws off the top of my head I want to look at, but overall I thought we fought as a team. Our defense did a great job while we were figuring things out.”
Where Hackenberg struggled was with passes along the boundary, especially beyond 10 yards, but he did complete a nice dart between defenders to Marquess Wilson, who ran a sharp corner route for a gain of 14.
“He has some things to build off,” head coach Todd Bowles said. “He has some positives that we can look at and he can build from. He’s got some negatives that we’ve got to correct. That’s to be expected in the first game.”
There’s nowhere to go but up for Hackenberg, who didn’t appear in a regular-season game last season for New York despite being selected in the second round of the 2016 draft. Typically, that’s not entirely unsurprising, but this happened while part of a team that was forced to play Geno Smith and Bryce Petty in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Only one of those three are still on the roster.
Hack’s best season beyond high school was his freshman year at Penn State. It’s been a few years since he’s found consistent success, so for the youngster to stick in the NFL, he’ll need more outings like these. With McCown being the bridge to the unnamed future, opportunity could arise rather quickly. For Hackenberg’s sake, he better be prepared, before it’s too late.