It has been assumed for some time that Josh McCown would at least open the 2017 season as the Jets‘ starting quarterback, but the team needs to give Christian Hackenberg a look this year in order to see what they have in him, and to that end, Hackenberg got a surprise start in last night’s preseason matchup against the Lions.
It did not go well. Hackenberg took a big step backward from his solid outing last week, going 2-for-6 for 14 yards. He was sacked twice, he fumbled once, and four of his five drives were three-and-outs. Although head coach Todd Bowles attempted to take some of the heat off Hackenberg by pointing out that the offensive line did not give him much of a chance, Brian Costello of the New York Post believes McCown won the team’s starting job last night, and he didn’t even have to take a snap to do it.
Now for more from the league’s east divisions, starting with more from Gang Green:
- McCown was initially supposed to take more snaps in last night’s game than he did in the Jets‘ first preseason contest, but Bowles said he changed his mind on Thursday night, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Bowles said McCown “has played in a million preseason games” and therefore elected to give Hackenberg a shot. However, Mehta reports that McCown was told by a media relations advisor to not speak with reporters after the game, even though McCown was apparently open to talking. It is unclear what the team’s motivation in “censoring” McCown would be, but it is an interesting move just the same.
- Unlike Hackenberg, Jets No. 3 signal-caller Bryce Petty performed fairly well last night, going 15-for-24 for 160 yards and leading two field goal drives. Per Mehta, Petty has secured a roster spot unless he suffers a complete meltdown over the next several weeks.
- Mehta also observes that Ross Martin, who made a pair of short field goals last night to go along with a miss from 56 yards, remains the front-runner to win the Jets‘ kicking job over Chandler Catanzaro, who missed a 55-yarder in the preseason opener but did not get an attempt last night.
- Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount is coming off one of his best seasons, but he struggled to find a new home in free agency this offseason, and the short-yardage specialist may be on the roster bubble in Philly, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (citing Matt Lombardo of NJ.com) writes. Although Blount does not really fit the Eagles’ offense, it may not be wise to cut him, as Wendell Smallwood has had difficulty staying healthy, Darren Sproles is 34, and Donnel Pumphrey is a fourth-round rookie.
- Cowboys No. 2 QB Kellen Moore turned in another poor performance during last night’s contest against the Colts, and while the team continues to publicly support him, an unnamed source tells Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Moore will be the subject of conversation at personnel meetings this week. It is unclear what that means at this point, because the team will certainly not promote undrafted rookie Cooper Rush to the backup job, no matter how well he has played, and the Cowboys have not yet considered adding a proven free agent to compete with Moore.
- It was a different story for Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, who finally played in a football game last night after 596 days on the sidelines. Smith, who suffered a gruesome knee injury during the final game of his collegiate career on January 1, 2016, saw his draft stock plummet as a result and was ultimately scooped up by Dallas in the second round of the 2016 draft (he was originally considered a top-10, or even top-5, talent). The Cowboys knew 2016 would essentially be a medical redshirt year for Smith, but they also knew that, if Smith could overcome the injury, they could have something special on their hands. The nerve in Smith’s leg continues to regenerate, and as Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News writes, Smith looked solid in last night’s preseason game. He was in for 12 snaps, he moved well, and he was quick to the ball, further solidifying the team;s belief that he will be a significant contributor this year.