FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Christian Hackenberg took a baby step last week. Now it's time to take a grown-up step.
The Summer of Hack continues Saturday night in Detroit, where the second-year New York Jets quarterback will see significant action (again) with a chance to narrow the gap between him and Josh McCown. With every productive rep, Hackenberg moves a fraction closer to the starting job.
Based on offensive coordinator John Morton's headline quote from the other day -- "Basically, he's a rookie" -- we can assume Hackenberg still isn't within striking distance of the starting job. The Jets don't want to rush him, and that's smart. It's August, not November.
That said, they want to see progress. This should be Hackenberg's to-do list against the Lions:
1. Lead a scoring drive. He generated no points in eight possessions last week against the Tennessee Titans.
2. Execute a two-minute drill. You can tell a lot about a quarterback when the pace gets frantic.
3. Execute in the red zone. He never made it that far against Tennessee.
4. Complete a pass that travels more than 10 yards.
In the opener, Hackenberg completed 18 of 25 passes for only 127 yards, as 14 completions came within five yards of the line of scrimmage. He was 0-for-3 on attempts longer than 10 yards. This isn't the time to turn him into Daryle Lamonica in the old AFL, but it would be nice to see how Hackenberg reacts in a deep pocket, reading coverage downfield.
"I don't want him to force anything," coach Todd Bowles said Thursday. "We have plays built in to throw downfield. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, but we do have plays in for him to throw downfield."
Bowles didn't reveal his quarterback rotation for the game, but the expectation is that McCown will start again. Asked if he's planning any lineup changes, Bowles said, "I would say no, but we'll discuss it." Interestingly, McCown didn't get any work during the game plan portion of practice Thursday.
McCown should start. As Bowles said, "He needs practice and he needs some preseason. I don’t think he needs to go every game, all four quarters and everything like that, but he’ll play. He needs work.”
But it's also important to get Hackenberg as many reps as possible. After riding the bench last season, he needs game action in the worst way.
"I think it’s just really trying to do everything that I’ve been trying to do up to this point, which is just go out, operate, do what is asked of me, take what the defense gives me and continue to grow," Hackenberg said.
Other things to watch Saturday night at Ford Field:
• The offensive line remains in flux, with Bowles saying center and both tackle spots are up in the air. At center, Jonotthan Harrison is pushing Wesley Johnson in what is developing into a legitimate competition. The coach's comments notwithstanding, Kelvin Beachum and Brent Qvale are the favorites over Ben Ijalana and Brandon Shell at left and right tackle, respectively.
• It looks as though Jordan Jenkins and Freddie Bishop will start at outside linebacker for the second consecutive week, but nothing is settled. Lorenzo Mauldin (back) is out for the second straight week. The former third-round pick could land on the roster bubble if things continue to trend in this direction.
• We can't forget about the kicking competition. Ross Martin has outkicked Chandler Catanzaro in practice by a significant margin, but he hasn't had a chance in a game yet. It's a "dogfight," according to special-teams coordinator Brant Boyer.
"Everything is charted, so it's a huge body of work," Boyer said of the evaluation process. "But when it comes down to when the lights are turned on, can they perform? That's what matters."