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Confidence Rising for Christian Hackenberg

QB's Short TD Strike at OTA Practice Is Perhaps Indicative of His Comfort Level Compared to a Year Ago


It was just one short pass during one red zone series during one OTA practice in early June.

It was pretty nonetheless.

What was "it"? Merely a 3-yard touchdown pass from Christian Hackenberg into the outstretched hands of one veteran wide receiver over the defense of a veteran corner on the right side of the end zone at Tuesday's practice.

Hackenberg, the second-year signalcaller battling with Josh McCown and Bryce Petty for the Jets' starting QB job, downplayed the significance of the "score," which came indoors, in the Atlantic Health Training Center fieldhouse, due to the rainy conditions outside.

"It was a good look," he said, adding that the receiver "made a great play, great adjustment, so that's good to get those types of plays in the spring."

It's good to get them from all the players, wide receivers ... and quarterbacks.

To be sure, Hackenberg had a few offline passes in Tuesday's practice. And there's no way for us to handicap the QB derby at this point. But last year's second-round draft pick has been getting noticed for some strong throws at recent practices.

Head coach Todd Bowles wasn't asked about Hackenberg at his news conference today, since a few more urgent topics took precedence. But last week he was upbeat about his youngest QB.

"He's coming along pretty good," Bowles said. "He's getting a grasp of the offense and learning it. ... I've seen spurts."

Hackenberg agreed that his comfort level is higher this year than it was as a rookie, even though he's learning his fourth offense in the last five years (two at Penn State and his second in his two Jets seasons).

"I'm not going to say night and day," he said, adding, "I feel a lot better going in there, having a great understanding of what's going on, being able to have the time with Josh and the coaching staff and really hit it hard in terms of what we're installing. [Coordinator John Morton] is putting a lot of stuff on us, so we've had to study and work extra, and that's helping. Being able to go out there and actually take those reps and do it live has been great, so I'd say I feel a lot more comfortable than last year."

Best Images from the Indoor OTA Practice

Comfortable enough to handicap his position in the QB competition at this early stage? No, that's not how Hackenberg rolls. But he did have a strong statement when asked by Record columnist Tara Sullivan why people around the NFL seem to have such fixed opinions about his NFL ability already.

"That's their opinions. I can't really speak for them. It's whoever it is," he said. "But I know what I can do and I know what my coaching staff feels that I can do, so I'm just confident in my abilities and when I get my opportunity to play I'm going to do that.

"I'm confident that I can play at this level and play at a high level, so I'm going to go and, when I get my opportunity, take advantage of that."

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