By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
The Associated Press
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Christian Hackenberg remains a big mystery for the New York Jets.
The second-year quarterback has yet to take a snap in a regular-season game, and it appears he won’t get an opportunity any time soon.
Hackenberg is the Jets’ No. 3 quarterback, stuck behind backup Bryce Petty and 38-year-old starter Josh McCown. For a player selected in the second round of the NFL draft, some might have expected a lot more progress — at least on the depth chart.
“I think the one thing with any player is they all develop at different paces and different rates,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said Wednesday. “I think [the preseason] was good experience for Christian. I think we got an idea of areas where he still needs to improve upon, like every young player.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say [I’m] discouraged.”
But lots of Jets fans would, especially those who were hoping Hackenberg would seize the starting job during training camp. Instead, the former Penn State star fell further away from being an NFL starter.
Hackenberg went 32 of 74 for 372 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions this summer, along with a dismal 68.1 quarterback rating.
With the Jets sitting at 4-5 and McCown playing solid football, New York isn’t looking to make any kind of switch under center. While the focus going into this season was the future with an all-out rebuild, the Jets find themselves sitting right in the middle of the playoff picture.
“I think Christian has done some positive things,” Maccagnan said during a 30-minute midseason roundtable with reporters. “There are areas he still needs to improve upon, but I’m encouraged with the work he and Bryce are putting in.”
Hackenberg, who was limited at practice with a bruised finger on his right hand, was the fourth quarterback selected in 2016. Jared Goff went No. 1 overall to the Rams and Carson Wentz went with the next pick to Philadelphia, and both have firmly established themselves as NFL starters.
Paxton was the third of the first-round QBs, and he started two games as a rookie but is now working his way back from a shoulder injury. Four of the 11 quarterbacks taken after Hackenberg have all started games: Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott and Kevin Hogan.
If the Jets fall out of the postseason hunt over the next month, they could use that time to further evaluate Hackenberg and Petty before entering what will be an important offseason.
“I don’t think there’s a prerequisite of what we need or don’t need to do,” Maccagnan said. “I think the one thing is we’ll see how this season progresses. We still have seven games left to play. You don’t know how the season will unfold.”
With each victory, the Jets move further away from a top 5 pick — with a chance to get their choice at a potential franchise quarterback.
They will still likely be in the market for a signal caller after this season, especially with McCown due to become a free agent. Maccagnan acknowledged that the veteran has “fulfilled all of our expectations,” but wouldn’t commit to potentially bringing him back next season.
The GM also refused to look at passing on the opportunity to take Deshaun Watson in this year’s draft, instead taking safety Jamal Adams at No. 6 overall. Watson, who was having a terrific rookie season before tearing a knee ligament, went six picks later to Houston — where Maccagnan once worked in the scouting department.
“Obviously, Deshaun was doing a very good job for Houston,” Maccagnan said. “But from our standpoint, I tend to look forward in things like that. You don’t go back and play the what-if game.”