Continuing a weeklong trend, Hackenberg and Petty shared practice reps Thursday as Josh McCown played the role of bystander. McCown took only one rep, and that came with the scout-team offense. Hackenberg got 18 reps with the starters, Petty 14.
This was the final practice before the Jets face the New York Giants on Saturday night in their third preseason game. The last practice before a game usually is a good indicator of who will play, although Bowles cautioned the lopsided rep distribution will have no bearing on the quarterback rotation.
Bowles declined to name a starter for Saturday night. He still expects to name his regular-season starter next week, although he backed off the Monday timetable, saying it could be Tuesday or Wednesday.
Facing a barrage of quarterback questions, Bowles claimed it's still an "open competition." McCown remains the favorite, but an impressive showing by Hackenberg could change the conversation. It would have to be very impressive.
"The more he plays, the better he gets," Bowles said.
Hackenberg has a long, long way to go; he has yet to generate any points in 13 possessions over two games this preseason. If you count the final game of the 2016 preseason, his scoreless streak is 26 consecutive possessions.
Hackenberg got the start last week and struggled against the Detroit Lions, but his pass protection was poor, according to Bowles. Hackenberg played behind the No. 1A offensive line, which included three players auditioning for starting jobs. Perhaps Bowles wants to see Hackenberg behind the No. 1 line before making a final decision.
Give Bowles points for being thorough, but there's a dangerous downside to this strategy: If McCown sees limited or no action against the Giants, he'll be rusty for the season opener. So far, McCown has played only one series this preseason -- the opening drive in the first game. He sat out last week.
McCown, ever the good soldier, said he has no problem with the inactivity. He said Bowles talked to him at the start of the week, explaining the strategy.
"There's no substitute (for reps), but I also understand there's a plan in place to evaluate the roster and evaluate our team and evaluate this position group," McCown said. "They're trying to get two young guys ready and up to speed as well."
McCown said he's confident he'd be able to play "at a high level" in Week 1 even with limited prep time. He is experienced and smart, but this is a new offensive system and a new receiving corps. And in case you haven't noticed, the offense isn't loaded with explosive players. Every week will be a struggle; imagine having a rusty quarterback.
A week ago, Bowles said McCown needed to "get work" against the Lions. Curiously, McCown didn't play at all.
"He gets a lot of work on the practice field and he had a good drive in the first game," Bowles said. "We want to see the other two guys."