Christian Hackenberg

AFC Notes: McCown, Cutler, Brissett, Ochi

Regardless of what head coach Todd Bowles says, the Jets‘ QB battle is not an open competition, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post. Costello writes that Josh McCown has taken about 99% of the first-team reps in training camp, while Christian Hackenberg has worked almost exclusively with the second unit. Unless Hackenberg excels during New York’s first two preseason games, Costello expects McCown to be under center come Week 1, which is what we expected all along.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the AFC:

  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald says Dolphins brass hopes to resolve the Jay Cutler question soon, and that resolution could come as early as today (Twitter link).
  • Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola accepted a pay cut to remain in New England for the third consecutive season, but as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes, the 31-year-old Amendola (32 in November) never considered retirement, nor did he consider suiting up for anyone other than the Patriots. He again projects as the team’s fourth or fifth option at wide receiver, but he has grown comfortable with his limited role and at this point in his career he appears content to get a little burn while playing in a winning environment.
  • Jacoby Brissett, the Patriots No. 3 signal-caller who got two starts last season in the wake of Tom Brady‘s suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo‘s injury, is in danger of being cut, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes. Brissett did not have a strong spring, and with Brady showing no signs of slowing down and Garoppolo back as the No. 2 QB, New England could look to use Brissett’s roster spot on a linebacker, receiver, or defensive back.
  • Titans LB Victor Ochi tore his ACL in Friday night’s practice, per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (via Twitter). Ochi is a small school (Stony Brook) product who has spent time with the Ravens, Jets, Chiefs, and Titans in his brief career, appearing in two games with the Jets last season. He has a great deal of raw pass-rushing ability, but it seems he will have to wait until 2018 to put that ability back on display.
  • Dan Graziano of ESPN.com says Tyler Ervin, whom the Texans selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, could fill in for Will Fuller while Fuller recovers from a broken collarbone. Ervin is a running back by trade, but he has tremendous speed and the club was already planning to use him in multiple roles to utilize his athleticism (he returned 27 punts and 14 kickoffs last season). With Fuller out for awhile, Houston could give receiver reps to Ervin with an eye towards making him a full-time slot receiver.

AFC Notes: A. Smith, Orr, Watson, Landry

It was former Chiefs GM John Dorsey who ultimately pulled the trigger on the team’s draft-day trade that allowed Kansas City to climb all the way up to the No. 10 overall spot and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But now that Dorsey is out and Brett Veach is in, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says it is fair to question what the new hire means for incumbent signal-caller Alex Smith.

But according to Miller, not much will change with respect to the team’s approach to Smith. After all, Veach has been with the Chiefs for the past four years, so it’s not as if he’s coming to Kansas City with a fresh take on the situation. Plus, Miller’s league sources all said effectively the same thing: “nothing changes in Kansas City while Andy Reid is the head coach.” As such, you can still expect the team to move on from Smith after the 2017 season — and save $17MM in the process — as long as Mahomes appears ready to assume control.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Kevin Bowen of Colts.com says all is quiet on the Colts/Zach Orr front, and at this point, the team has had plenty of time to sift through Orr’s medicals. Therefore, Bowen does not believe Indianapolis will pursue Orr in an attempt to bolster its linebacker corps.
  • Although Texans GM Rick Smith was not as definitive as head coach Bill O’Brien in declaring Tom Savage the team’s Week 1 starter, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle confirms that Savage will be under center when the regular season gets underway. Rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, is content to remain patient and wait for his opportunity. Watson said, “It’s best for the team. Coach [O’Brien] knows a lot of football. He’s been with … one of the best in NFL history in Tom Brady. He knows how everything is operated. He knows when the perfect timing will be.”
  • Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant recently said he took issue with the way Ben Roethlisberger spoke about him to the media earlier this summer, when Big Ben said Bryant would need to “win back everybody’s trust.” That might sound pretty rich for a player who managed to get himself suspended for the entire 2016 campaign, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com nonetheless believes that it is important for Bryant and Roethlisberger to have the sit-down that Bryant proposed. Although such meetings are often unbeneficial formalities, Fowler says Bryant, whose position in the league is fairly tenuous at this point, needs to feel like the catalyst he can be and not become a source of criticism.
  • The Dolphins‘ best bet may be to simply let Jarvis Landry play out the 2017 season, his contract year, and put the franchise tag on him in 2018, as Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders opines. After all, Landry is set to make less than $1MM this year, so even the projected $17MM tag in 2018 would allow Miami to keep Landry for at least two more seasons at about $8.5MM per year, which is well below the $14MM per year he would likely get with a new contract. Although that approach could create some discord between player and team, it does make short-term financial sense.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com makes a series of predictions for the Jets, with the most interesting being that he expects Christian Hackenberg to become the team’s starting quarterback no later than Week 12 (New York has a Week 11 bye), and that he expects Todd Bowles to be retained for 2018.

Community Tailgate: Jets’ Long-Term QB Solution?

As Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reported several days ago, Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg exceeded expectations in minicamp and has narrowed the gap between himself and presumptive starter Josh McCown. Gang Green, of course, is in full tank mode, and the team wants to give Hackenberg a chance to show what he can do in 2017, even if McCown ultimately opens the season as the starting signal-caller.

Jun 13, 2017; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws during mini camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

That does not mean, however, that the Jets are married to their Hack for the long haul. As Cimini wrote this morning, New York’s rebuilding plan is centered around its selecting a quarterback from the allegedly QB-rich 2018 draft. Players like USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen are generating the most buzz at the moment, though all are underclassmen and may choose to stay in college in 2018. Nonetheless, assuming (as most do) that the Jets will be bad enough in 2017 to have an early pick in next year’s draft, they could have their choice of elite quarterback prospects.

From a prospect standpoint, Hackenberg does not have the same upside as the above-mentioned collegiate passers, so there is plenty of doubt as to whether he can be a legitimate long-term starter in the league. Further complicating matters, as Brian Costello of the New York Post opines, is that it will be difficult to truly evaluate Hackenberg this year because of the fact that he really has no proven pass catcher to throw the ball to now that the team has cut ties with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Costello, like Cimini, believes Hackenberg showed significant improvement this spring, but if he struggles in 2017, it will be hard to argue that he was given a fair shake.

But now we want you to weigh in on this matter. How do you see the Jets’ long-term quarterback situation shaping up? Do you think Hackenberg will seize control of the job, thereby allowing the team to pursue other options in the 2018 draft (which was mentioned as a distinct possibility several weeks ago)? Or do you think Hackenberg will struggle to produce or just not play well enough to convince the Jets that he is the answer under center?

Or maybe you see an entirely different scenario unfolding. Maybe you see the world through green-and-white glasses and think McCown will keep the team in contention this year, which would be a pleasant surprise for Jets fans but which would not help them in their search for a long-term solution at quarterback. Or do you think Bryce Petty will emerge from the shadows and throw his hat in the ring? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Browns, Texans, Jags, Jets

Second-round signal-caller DeShone Kizer is in the mold of Super Bowl-winning division rivals Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) and Joe Flacco (Ravens), according to Browns quarterbacks coach David Lee, but it doesn’t sound as if he’ll see the field for a while. “He’s got a great future,” Lee told reporters, including Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com. “He’s just a long way from being ready. He’s not ready, but he’s climbing on it, and he’s making progress.”

Kizer, the 52nd overall pick from Notre Dame, is competing against Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler to open the season as the Browns’ starter. Osweiler has impressed Cleveland’s coaches since coming over in March in a surprising trade with Houston, and the fact that he’s the most experienced and accomplished of the Browns’ QBs matters to Lee. “You can say what you want, but the guy in the last two years has taken two different teams [Texans and Denver Broncos] to the playoffs, and there’s nobody else in that room that can say that,” Lee pointed out. “Plus, this is his sixth year of experience. [The other guys have] got [little or] no experience. … So he’s the senior citizen. He looks like a guy who’s played before. He’s great at the line of scrimmage. He’s great in the huddle, I mean calming effect. Is he the quarterback? We don’t have one yet, but he’s in the mix for sure.”

  • The Texans worked out safety Jaiquawn Jarrett on Monday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Jarrett, a former second-round pick, spent the first two seasons of his career with the Eagles before joining the Jets from 2013-15. He didn’t appear in the NFL in 2016. A veteran of 47 career games, Jarrett boasts nine starts through five pro seasons. Houston has no plans to sign either Jarrett or fellow defensive back Aaron Williams, whom the Texans hosted earlier this week, as Wilson writes in a full article.
  • Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey underwent core muscle surgery Thursday, per NFL.com’s Mike Garafalo, who adds that he should be ready for the regular season (Twitter link). Ramsey also dealt with a notable injury last spring, a torn meniscus that required surgery and kept him out of organized team activities and minicamp, but still went on to post an excellent rookie season. Last year’s fifth overall pick, Ramsey started all 16 of the Jags’ games, intercepted two passes (one of which he returned for a touchdown) and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 21st-best corner.
  • Josh McCown has a smaller-than-anticipated lead over Christian Hackenberg as the Jets’ training camp quarterback battle approaches, writes Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. McCown wasn’t all that sharp in minicamp, whereas Hackenberg exceeded expectations, per Cimini, who notes that Bryce Petty is a clear third in the race. The Jets invested a second-rounder in Hackenberg only a year ago, but it seems the ex-Penn State Nittany Lion is widely regarded as a lost cause after he couldn’t crack the lineup last season for a club whose QB play was among the worst in the league. But Hackenberg should get on the field sometime this year for a team that’s now in a full-scale rebuild.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

AFC Rumors: Steelers, Jets, C. Kelly

Steelers star RB Le’Veon Bell has yet to sign his franchise tender, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if the club would consider rescinding the tender, just as the Panthers did with Josh Norman last year. The closer we get to training camp, the more difficult it would be for Bell land a contract on the open market that pays him even $10MM in 2017, much less the $12.1MM he stands to receive under the franchise tender, and if Pittsburgh were to rescind the tender late in the summer, Bell’s financial prospects would only worsen. In the meantime, the Steelers’ other backs will get ample opportunity to prove their worth, and Florio speculates that Pittsburgh could decide to save millions by severing ties with Bell if its other options could combine to approximate Bell’s production.

But given that the rest of the Steelers’ RB corps features the likes of Knile Davis, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and rookie James Conner, that notion seems almost laughable. Even if the Steelers were considering rescinding the tender, it’s not surprising that there have been no reports about it, as such decisions are made and executed swiftly to avoid the possibility that the player will catch wind of it and pounce on the tender. Nonetheless, if Bell is not lined up behind Ben Roethlisberger on Week 1 (assuming he’s not injured or suspended), it would be the surprise of the season.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Speaking of Davis, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the Arkansas product, whom the Steelers signed as a free agent this offseason, has a good chance of landing the team’s No. 3 RB spot behind Bell and Conner. Third-string backs have been important players for Pittsburgh in recent years, and Davis’ experience returning kickoffs could give him the edge over Toussaint.
  • New Jets OC John Morton, unlike his predecessor, Chan Gailey, utilizes two-back sets, and the only fullbacks currently on New York’s roster are the unproven Julian Howsare and undrafted rookie Anthony Firkser. As such, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com believes the team could add a fullback like Zach Line, whom the team expressed interest in earlier this offseason, in the near future.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com says Jets QB Christian Hackenberg has shown some progress in OTAs, though he is still struggling with accuracy and turnovers. If the team can get him some game action, and if he flashes some potential, Slater believes the Jets may refrain from drafting a QB in 2018. If not, look for Gang Green to use another early selection on a signal-caller next year.
  • Broncos rookie QB Chad Kelly, this year’s Mr. Irrelevant, is close to getting back on the field, as Mike Klis of 9News.com writes. Kelly is coming off an injury to his right throwing wrist and his second ACL operation on his right knee, and while the Ole Miss product likely wouldn’t have been a factor in Denver’s QB competition this year anyway, he could have a legitimate chance at the job in 2018 or 2019.
  • Texans rookie Deante’ Gray, who signed with the club as a UDFA last month and who has a chance of cracking the back end of Houston’s WR corps, is expected to be out until training camp with a Grade 2 partially torn hamstring, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes.
  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union compares the career trajectory of Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith, who is entering his contract year, with that of Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey, who recently signed a four-year, $38MM extension with Cleveland. The two players, who were both drafted in 2014, have similar numbers through this point in their careers, so O’Halloran suggests that Kirksey’s deal will be a good foundation for a new Smith contract if the Jags are open to extending Smith before the season starts.

East Rumors: Jets, Pats, Switzer

Rich Cimini of ESPN.com recently expounded on last week’s discussion of the Jets‘ QB battle, and while he does not believe the team’s insistence that it will be an open competition is a charade, he does reaffirm his (and everyone’s) belief that Josh McCown is the heavy favorite to open the season under center. But in his latest post, Cimini goes into a little more detail as to how he believes the next few months will play out. He believes that, by the end of minicamp in mid-June, McCown will be the clear-cut front-runner and Christian Hackenberg will be the No. 2. When training camp opens, head coach Todd Bowles will remove Bryce Petty from the starting competition, as it’s hard enough to have a competition among two quarterbacks, much less three. Cimini also believes Hackenberg will get plenty of action in the team’s first two preseason games, but that Bowles, with his job on the line, will ultimately give the job to McCown, though Hackenberg will get the nod at some point this year.

Now for more from the league’s east divisions:

  • The Jets picked up tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins after he was waived by the Buccaneers last September, and while he posted only 10 catches in seven games for New York last season, the team believes the light has finally come on for the former second-round pick. As Cimini writes, ASJ has dropped 25 pounds, he was a diligent participant in the offseason conditioning program, and his performance has caught everyone’s eye at OTAs. Now that the Jets have an offensive coordinator who utilizes the tight end as a pass catcher, ASJ is a dark horse candidate for a breakout season, especially as he enters his contract year.
  • Mike Reiss’ of ESPN.com reports that Andrew Hawkins‘ one-year deal with the Patriots is a minimum salary benefit pact, meaning his base salary will be $900K, his bonus won’t exceed $80K, and his salary cap charge won’t be more than $695K. Reiss says that Hawkins passed up more lucrative opportunities with other clubs because New England was his top choice.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe applauds the Patriots‘ recent decision to add a healthy incentive package to Rob Gronkowski‘s current contract even though they had no need to do so, as he believes it’s simply smart business to keep Gronk healthy and motivated. Volin does wonder, though, whether the incentives will compel Gronkowski to push himself more than he otherwise would throughout the regular season, thereby reducing his effectiveness when the playoffs roll around.
  • Ryan Switzer, whom the Cowboys selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft, took first-team reps as the slot receiver during the first week of OTAs, as Cole Beasley was held out due to hamstring soreness. But as Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes, the Cowboys have big plans for Switzer even when Beasley returns, and they are working on packages for both to be on the field at the same time. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of Switzer, “He’s a classic slot receiver. He has a similar game [to Beasley], but he has his own things. We would really like those two guys to be able to complement each other and run real similar route trees. He complements Beasley and also gives us some big-time needed depth at that position.”

AFC East Rumors: Jets, Richardson, Patriots

Tell us what you really think, Sheldon Richardson. On Tuesday, the Jets defensive lineman ripped former teammate Brandon Marshall. He says the Jets’ locker room atmosphere is better than it was last year. He elaborated by saying, “Let’s just say there are 15 reasons why it’s better” (Twitter link via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News). The mention of “15” was a clear reference to Marshall’s jersey number.

The locker room may be better, but it’s not clear if the team will be any better than it was last year. As it stands, the rebuilding Jets might have the least talented roster in the NFL.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Andrew Hawkins declined four other offers so that he could play with the Patriots and catch passes from Tom Brady, a source tells Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hawkins inked a one-year deal with New England, but his place on the 53-man roster is not a sure thing given all of the talent New England has.
  • Jets offensive coordinator John Morton says quarterbacks Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg will all get first team reps, as Peter Schrager of NFL.com tweets. It seems that the Jets have an open competition going for the starting job, though I personally view McCown as the odds-on favorite.
  • Jets safety Calvin Pryor, who has been the subject of trade talk, showed up for OTAs on Wednesday (Twitter link via Mehta).

East Rumors: Brady, Eagles, Hackenberg

Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com says Tom Brady will have to address his wife’s recent comments about his alleged concussions at some point soon. It appears that, if Brady has suffered concussions, he never told the Patriots, so the club will not face discipline for failing to note his concussions on injury reports. Interestingly, Brady’s agent, Don Yee, recently said that Brady “was not diagnosed” with a concussion last year, which is quite different than saying he did not actually suffer one.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe makes the common sense point that Brady has of course suffered a few concussions over the course of his 17-year career, and that he, like many before him, has simply done whatever he can to conceal them from his team, both out of a sense of pride and out of a desire to not miss any time.

Now for more from the league’s east divisions:

  • Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com looks at the Eagles‘ 2018 salary cap situation, and while the team is currently projected to have limited cap room again, there are plenty of options to free up some space. For instance, the club is likely to release Jason Peters, and may even consider releasing Brandon Graham if Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry do well in 2017.
  • The Eagles‘ recent signing of LeGarrette Blount will likely force UDFA Corey Clement, who had a real chance of cracking the 53-man roster as the club’s resident big-body back, to the taxi squad, as Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com writes. Zangaro predicts the club will carry four backs on their roster heading into 2017, including Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, and Donnel Pumphrey. We learned yesterday that Philadelphia was interested in drafting both Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook, but that the price to move up in Rounds 1-2 to be in range to select them was too steep.
  • The Jets‘ QB competition will be the story to watch at the team’s OTAs over the next several weeks, though Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, like most other writers, believes it would be a surprise if Josh McCown is not the team’s Week 1 starter. Head coach Todd Bowles wants to identify a presumptive starter before training camp in order to give that player the majority of first-team reps in camp, and McCown is likely to prevail over the untested youngsters Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, Cimini is especially bearish on Hackenberg, who does not fit OC John Morton‘s West Coast offense.
  • James Kratch of NJ.com looks at some of the Giants‘ high-profile players who are entering their contract years and what their long-term outlook with the club looks like. Kratch says an extension for Justin Pugh will not happen, and that Big Blue is either going to have to pony up big bucks for a multi-year deal next offseason or else slap Pugh with the franchise tag. Kratch believes an extension is slightly more likely for Weston Richburg, but that it is still a remote possibility, and if Richburg returns to form in 2017, he could set himself up for an Alex Mack-level payday.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Ryan, Jets, McCown

The Bills parted ways with Rex Ryan last December in part because of the coach’s declaration that the season was over when the playoffs were still in reach, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes. Ryan was believed to be on the hot seat in Buffalo, but that incident apparently sealed his fate. Months later, the Bills have a new head coach in Sean McDermott and Ryan has a new job as an analyst for ESPN.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • New Jets quarterback Josh McCown said his understanding is “it’s full competition between the three” QBs currently on the roster, meaning that he’ll duke it out with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty for the main gig (Twitter link via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). McCown, 38 in July, has $6MM fully guaranteed on his Jets deal. The Cowboys also wanted him, but they didn’t offer nearly as much.
  • Jets owner Woody Johnson says he will judge his team based on development this season rather than wins and losses, as USA Today’s Andy Vasquez writes. “Really, the way I want to be judged, hopefully from the fans’ standpoint, is just watch how we improve during the year,” Johnson said Tuesday on ESPN Radio. “Look at each individual on the team and if they’re getting better, that’s a mark of progress. That’s what we’re looking for.” That could be good news for coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan since the Jets’ roster is among the worst in the league.
  • Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler didn’t get the long-term deal that he wanted, but he reported to the team’s voluntary workouts this week.
  • Dolphins running back Damien Williams wants a raise, but he doesn’t have much leverage.

Jets Notes: QBs, McCown, Catanzaro, Ijalana

The Jets will stage a competition at quarterback in 2017, and Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg will all be given a chance to win the job, head coach Todd Bowles told reporters, including Brian Costello of the New York Post (Twitter link). McCown signed a one-year deal that comes with $6MM guaranteed and $7MM available via incentives, so the 37-year-old has to be considered the favorite in any sort of battle. But Hackenberg, specifically, could be handed a shot to play in 2017 after being selected in the second round of last year’s draft.

Here’s more out of New York:

  • Bowles would not rule out the possibility of the Jets drafting a quarterback with the sixth overall pick, and as such, is open to keeping four signal-callers on the roster for the second consecutive season, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY and Connor Hughes of NJ.com (Twitter links). Gang Green has been lined to the majority of the quarterbacks at the top of the draft — including Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and DeShone Kizer, and could conceivably land one at No. 6. The Jets have no interest in adding another veteran QB, however.
  • New York will add competition “from somewhere” for new kicker Chandler Catanzaro, Bowles said, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Without specifics, that means the Jets could add another kicker in free agency, the draft, or in undrafted free agency. Catanzaro, who signed a one-year deal with $250K guaranteed after being cut loose by Arizona, converted only 75% of his field goal attempts in 2016.
  • After not employing a fullback in 2016 under former offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, the Jets may sign an FB this offseason, per Bowles (Twitter link via Cimini). New play-caller John Morton may want a fullback, as the Saints (Morton’s former employer) used one on roughly a quarter of their plays. New York recently met with free agent fullback Will Johnson.
  • Offensive lineman Ben Ijalana‘s two-year deal is worth $10.25MM and contains $3MM guaranteed, tweets Cimini. Ijalana, who will play right tackle opposite Kelvin Beachum, will count for $4.25MM on the Jets’ 2017 salary cap before the club decides on a 2018 option worth $6MM.