FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Josh McCown knows quarterbacks. He could write a book on all the different quarterbacks he's played with over 15 years -- a Hall of Famer (Kurt Warner), a colossal bust (JaMarcus Russell) and a train wreck (Johnny Manziel), to name a few.
"He's how you draw a quarterback up," McCown said. "Big, strong arm, athletic. He fits that mold, for sure. And his mindset, it's right on. He works very hard. I think he's a sharp kid. He's got a lot in front of him. He's got a great opportunity."
It sounded like he was reading from Mike Maccagnan's scouting report on Hackenberg. The Jets' general manager saw those same traits in Hackenberg last year, which is why he drafted him in the second round -- higher than many teams projected.
That doesn't matter now because this is Year 2 of the Hackenberg Project, and the Jets are committed to finding out if he can develop into a starting quarterback. They see what McCown sees -- the arm and the measurables -- but they can't say for sure if he'll put it all together. They're hoping.
"Just make strides from last year," said coach Todd Bowles, explaining his 2017 expectations. "Obviously, he’s going to get a lot of reps, and we’re going to get to see him come out of his shell a little bit. He didn’t get a lot of reps last year, he gets a lot of reps this year. We'll see how he handles it going forward. ... Hopefully, he makes a step forward."
The Jets wrapped up their first week of OTA practices on Thursday. Three practices down, seven to go, followed by a three-day minicamp. Don't expect a definitive conclusion by then; this will be a season-long process for Hackenberg, who is splitting reps with McCown and Bryce Petty in what the Jets are calling a three-way competition.
Offensive coordinator John Morton, hired in January to replace Chan Gailey, spent part of his offseason digging into Hackenberg's past. He studied three years of game tape from Penn State and tape from his rookie season, which didn't take long. Hackenberg appeared in only two preseason games and attempted just 47 passes -- 17 completions (36 percent), one touchdown, two interceptions and 159 yards.
Hackenberg didn't play in the regular season, as you may have heard.
"I love the way he prepares and the way he competes," Morton said. "I'm talking about competing in the classroom, too. Guys have to learn to do that, and be a pro and be a student of the game, and learn to take notes and those things. He's doing those things, but it's too early to tell right now, football-wise."
McCown believes part of his job is to help groom Hackenberg and Petty.
"I want to take my experiences and be able to hand it to those guys, so, hopefully, maybe they can stay in one place for a long time," McCown said.