It’s important not to put too much weight on any one play in training camp. Quarterbacks can’t be hit. Most often, the team drills are run without full contact. The speed and physicality of summer sessions are simply not comparable to true game action.
But with the lights on at MetLife Stadium Saturday night for the Jets’ annual Green and White scrimmage, Christian Hackenberg made arguably the best play of his young career, and it showcased the type of tools that made him an intriguing prospect for general manager Mike Maccagnan in the 2016 draft — even if it came in a practice.
On second and 10 from the opposing 25-yard line, Hackenberg dropped back to pass and faced a stout pass rush from both sides. The second-round pick evaded the oncoming defenders, stepped up in the pocket and unleashed a running throw to the middle of the field. The toss landed in the outstretched arms of rookie tight end Jordan Leggett in the end zone for a touchdown.
Josh McCown — who appears to be leading the three-man QB competition with Hackenberg and Bryce Petty based on playing time through the first week of training camp — watched Hackenberg’s TD pass from behind the play and came away impressed.
“It was awesome. It was a heck of a throw. I think those are some of the things that get you excited about Hack,” the 38-year-old journeyman said. “That was one of those plays for Christian, no doubt. To step up and avoid the rush like he did and then to deal one in there, showing off his arm talent and his accuracy, that’s obviously why he was drafted where he was and what gets you excited about him.”
Hackenberg finished 3-of-5 passing on the night for 45 yards. He also took three sacks. There’s no question he’s made progress from his redshirt rookie season in 2016. Occasionally he still holds the ball too long, but as Todd Bowles pointed out earlier this week, that is sometimes the function of a receiver running the wrong route.
Despite finishing with just 12 reps, Hackenberg played the best of the three quarterbacks Saturday night. McCown completed 8-of-13 passes for 113 yards with two touchdowns (including a 55-yard bomb to Chris Harper) and an interception in 21 reps. Petty completed just four-of-12 passes for 44 yards, but he did engineer a 60-yard field goal drive on his second series.
“All three made some big completions at certain times,” Bowles said.
Rookie safety Marcus Maye electrified the MetLife crowd Saturday with the play of the night for the defense.
During McCown’s third offensive series, Maye jumped in front of Robby Anderson and secured his first interception of camp. He returned it 60 yards for a touchdown — though McCown jokingly took exception with the ruling after the scrimmage.
“Lucky for them that I had a red jersey on,” he said, referring to the non-contact jerseys the quarterbacks wear.
Maye has already played his way into a starting role at safety alongside fellow rookie Jamal Adams, who missed Saturday because of a sprained ankle.
“It’s amazing, especially for a young guy, to come in, get a pick-six,” defensive lineman Steve McLendon said. “And he’s doing in front of his fans.” …Running backs Matt Forte (hamstring) and Bilal Powell both sat out Saturday’s practice. Bowles said Powell is not dealing with a concussion. Powell suffered his injury Friday, and Bowles said he “got the wind knocked out of him.”…Cornerback Xavier Coleman injured his leg Saturday.
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