Time to get serious with Christian Hackenberg -- or end QB charade

Christian Hackenberg is coming off an encouraging outing in the Green & White scrimmage Saturday night at MetLife Stadium. Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- If the New York Jets are serious about giving Christian Hackenberg a legit shot at the quarterback job, they should shake up the practice rotation this week and let him start the first preseason game.

So far, they don't appear serious about it.

Through seven training camp practices, Hackenberg has worked almost exclusively with the second-team offense, ahead of Bryce Petty and behind Josh McCown, who has been handled like the presumptive starter.

There has been no rotation, not even split of the reps. This quarterback competition is as open as a bank on Sunday.

The time to give Hackenberg some work with the starters was the first week of camp, when they were experimenting with personnel and moving people around. This week, they will cut back on that and start focusing on a set lineup, according to coach Todd Bowles.

It sounds like things will remain status quo at quarterback.

From all indications, the Jets are grooming Hackenberg to start the season as the No. 2 quarterback. Perhaps they want to build him up gradually and let his confidence grow before throwing him into the fire. If that's the game plan, that's not how they sold it to the public. They presented it as an open competition.

OK, let's not quibble over semantics.

If Bowles starts McCown on Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans -- it's trending in that direction -- he should pull him after a series and hand the game to Hackenberg. They know what McCown can and can't do; they need to get a long look at Hackenberg. Let him play until the fourth quarter. Heaven knows, he needs the game experience. His NFL resume consists of 76 preseason snaps last summer, all of them against backups and backups to the backups.

Hackenberg is coming off an encouraging outing in the Green & White scrimmage this past Saturday night at MetLife Stadium, where he made his best throw of camp. Sensing pressure, he stepped up in the pocket and fired a 25-yard touchdown to rookie tight end Jordan Leggett, fitting the ball through a tight window.

"It was awesome. It was a heck of a throw," McCown said. "I think those are some of the things that get you excited about Hack. ... To step up and avoid the rush like he did and then to deal one in there, showing his arm talent and his accuracy, that’s why he was drafted where he was and what gets you excited about him."

Hackenberg completed 3 of 5 passes for 45 yards in the scrimmage. McCown (8-for-13, 114 yards) threw a long touchdown to Chris Harper, but he also was intercepted by rookie safety Marcus Maye, who returned it for a touchdown. Petty (4-for-12, 45 yards) led the third-team offense to a field goal to end the night.

Other things to watch for this week:

  • The biggest injury concern is wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who re-injured his neck in the scrimmage. He sat out the June minicamp with the same injury, so you have to figure he'll miss some time. The team, off Sunday, didn't provide an update.

  • The most competitive positional battles are right tackle (Brent Qvale versus Brandon Shell) and kicker (Chandler Catanzaro versus Ross Martin). Both could go down to the wire in the preseason.

  • It'll be interesting to see how the outside linebackers are used. Lorenzo Mauldin (weakside) and Jordan Jenkins (strong) are thought to be the favorites at their respective spots, but rookie Dylan Donahue and Josh Martin, respectively, are pushing them. Frank Beltre, a former CFL player, made a bunch of plays last week and also could crash the party.