The New York Jets have a quarterback competition.
New York went into training camp with a clear pecking order of their three quarterbacks behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, which was Geno Smith- Bryce Petty-Christian Hackenberg. And there were real doubts that Petty had a chance to make the team. However, that apparently has changed.
The question is now, has the pecking order of the backup quarterbacks changed after two preseason games?
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News believes that Petty has proven through his play that he deserves a legitimate shot at being the backup quarterback and “quarterback of the future.” However, head coach Todd Bowles has declined to give any hint which direction he is going, according to USA Today Sports.
“I was clear about every position 1-2-3-4 going in, until we make a change there won’t be. That’s any position. When we make a decision at the end of camp — if it changes, it changes; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Right now they’re all playing, and we’re trying to see who sorts out what.”
The conundrum for the Jets is mainly their own doing. New York drafted Smith in the second round of the 2013 draft and took Petty in the fourth round in 2015. They then selected Christian Hackenberg in the second round of this past year’s draft. Conor Orr, of the NFL, doesn’t believe the quarterback situation is necessarily the fault of Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan as neither were responsible for drafting Smith.
Smith entered the competition with a distinct advantage in experience, appearing in 31 games — including 29 starts. The 25-year-old has struggled with accuracy throughout his career and has thrown more interceptions (35) than touchdowns (27).
Smith hasn’t looked very good during this preseason, particularly in the 22-18 loss to the Washington Redskins on Friday. On his first offensive series, Smith had a brain freeze and was flagged for intentional grounding. On his next series, Smith stared down wide receiver Charone Peake and then telegraphed a pass that was picked off by safety Will Blackmon.
Against Washington, Smith led three drives (16 snaps) and completed 6-of-13 throws for 47 yards along with one interception. He is 14-of-27 (51.9 percent) for 126 yards with one touchdown and one interception through two preseason contests.
Petty has been one of the productive quarterbacks in the preseason. Against the Redskins, the 25-year-old directed the Jets to 16 points and 236 total yards. Petty finished the night, 16-of-26 for 242 yards and two touchdowns as well as a fumble recovery. His two touchdown passes (19 and 42 yards) came while he was getting buried by the defense.
Overall this preseason, Petty is 23-for-40 for 335 yards and no interceptions though he has been sacked five times. Petty sat all last season trying to learn the offense. He is still a project but has a cannon for an arm. Petty averages 8.7 yards per attempt and he hooked up with Robby Anderson on a 50-yard completion (Friday).
“He’s more confident in his reads and therefore the ball’s coming out a lot better,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think he’s done a great job all preseason even with the situation with everything up in the air. Who knows? Just grinding every day.”
Despite Petty’s success and Smith’s struggles, Smith still has gotten the bulk of the practice of backup quarterbacks on Sunday and Monday. Smith completed 23-of-28 passes and no interceptions while Petty went 7-of-13 with one interception, in those two practices according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Cimini added that Hackenberg has gotten more reps recently, but his efficiency is still lagging behind, going 9-for-25 with two interceptions.
Speaking of Hackenberg, the former Penn State signal-caller is the only quarterback of the 15 drafted this past April that has yet to appear in a preseason game. The 21-year-old is not expected to see the field versus the New York Giants on Saturday but should make his debut in the final preseason contest in Philadelphia.
While all the attention has been on the backup quarterbacks, Cimini recently wrote that the Jets shouldn’t overlook the Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, who sat out all of the offseason as a result of a contract dispute, has only taken 22 snaps this preseason. With the 33-year-old at the helm, the Jets have not put any points on the board. He is 7-of-13 with 107 yards.
The Jets reportedly are contemplating keeping all four quarterbacks, which is dumb. Whoever doesn’t win the backup job will and should be cut, unless New York decides to let Hackenberg go.
[Photo by Nick Wass/AP Photo]