The Jets’ quarterback competition is a lot like Monday’s solar eclipse: Everyone already knows what’s going to happen, but they follow along intently anyway.
The façade of a three-man battle between Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty will come to close soon enough, though. Todd Bowles will announce his starting signal-caller in the days following this Saturday’s preseason contest against the Giants.
“Probably Monday after watching the film,” Bowles said after Jets practice in Florham Park.
McCown — who didn’t play in this weekend’s preseason loss at the Lions to allow more snaps for Hackenberg and Petty — will almost assuredly be the name Bowles announces next week.
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“Obviously very disappointed if I’m not the guy,” McCown said Monday. “But at the same time, we’ll support whatever he decides is best for our team.”
Hackenberg started in Detroit and went 2-of-6 passing for 14 yards in an underwhelming performance. Petty posted better numbers against the Lions’ second- and third-team defenses, completing 15 of his 24 passes for 160 yards and an interception that came on a desperation heave at the end of regulation.
The defining moment of Hackenberg’s evening came on his third play from scrimmage, when Lions defensive end Cornelius Washington charged into the backfield unblocked from right side and smothered the 22-year-old quarterback with a vicious front-side hit, forcing a fumble.
Hackenberg remained in the game, but he didn’t find much more success. Four of his five series ended in three-and-outs, ignoring a kneel-down to end the first half.
On Monday, after dissecting the film, Hackenberg took the fall for the Washington sack fumble. Bowles, meanwhile, wouldn’t reveal who he thought was a culprit, other than to call the play “a breakdown on a couple fronts.”
“We could have checked to something else, probably maxed it up, got some protection. So it was a good learning experience,” Hackenberg said. “I thought they were bringing something and they adjusted and did a good job bringing what I thought they weren’t going to bring.”
So where does this leave the quarterbacks heading into the largely meaningless Snoopy Bowl?
Bowles said he will formulate a plan for playing time after the Jets practice in pads Tuesday and Wednesday. The team held a walkthrough practice Monday in shorts, no pads and no helmets.
The pressing question is how much playing time McCown will get. Thus far, the 38-year-old has played just one series this preseason — a 78-yard touchdown drive on the opening series of a 7-3 win over the Titans two weeks ago.
McCown didn’t speak after Saturday’s game at the request of Jets PR official. He offered his thoughts Monday on Bowles’ decision to not play him.
“Obviously you’re a competitor; you want to play every time you get a chance to,” McCown said. “But also (I) know the situation and understand that we have two young guys that these preseason games can be valuable for because they can really get a lot of time and an opportunity to play. So I understood that was the way Coach wanted to go and so I accept that.”
The Jets, however, are very young on offense. They lack experienced playmakers, especially at receiver. And heading into the third preseason game — usually used as the dress rehearsal and final tune-up before regular-season action — the Gang Green first-team unit has played together sparingly outside of practice.
Interestingly enough, Bowles is looking for more cohesion from his offense, which has been nothing short of a disaster in the first two preseason bouts.
“We need to play certain people together,” Bowles said. “We’ve been substituting a lot of people in and out. Obviously, the name of the game is to score points. But it’s also the first two weeks of preseason where we’re subbing people in and out and we’re just looking for more continuity, and we’ll try to have that on Saturday.”
Bowles could be referring to his offensive line, where three starting positions — center and both tackle spots — remain up for grabs.
But he’s also been rotating quarterbacks. And despite McCown’s immense NFL experience, it’d be wise to get him significant action at MetLife Stadium this weekend.
“Whatever time he allots for me,” McCown said of Bowles, “then I’ll be good to go.”
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