The Jets have an interesting situation on their hands regarding their quarterback room, as they currently have four. And compared to their MetLife neighbors who annually carry just two on the active roster, Gang Green’s problem is twice the burden.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the unquestioned starter, and backup quarterback Geno Smith isn’t as bad a No. 2 as his detractors think. But after them, the Jets will have to decide if they want to carry a fourth quarterback – namely second-year passer Bryce Petty, because there’s minuscule chance the team cuts rookie second-round pick Christian Hackenberg.
Both young passers were sought after by the Jets, as the team traded up in the draft to nab Petty, and Hackenberg was a shocking early selection given his publicized struggles during his final season at Penn State. Hackenberg, though, is seemingly on firmer land, despite his epic struggles to even complete intermediate passes and the fact he might not even see many preseason game reps until the finale. And judging by his lack of reps in camp, he’s likely seen as a developmental project who will likely take a “red shirt” season to learn and progress.
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Unless someone blows away general manager Mike Maccagnan with an insane trade offer for Smith, it’s likely that Petty is the odd-man out. NFL coaches are already paranoid about not having enough roster spots, so for head coach Todd Bowles to keep Petty as the fourth quarterback and essentially waste one of the coveted 53 spots on the active roster on a guy who will mostly take scout team reps during the week is unlikely.
But when asked about Petty’s development and his chances, Bowles was vague, with very little praise, but nothing damning either.
“He’s making better reads because he’s in the second year learning the offense a little better,” Bowles said, refusing to tip his hand on whether he’ll keep the quartet intact. “All of them have to be ready to play, whether we play them all or not. It remains to see how the game goes.”
Bowles added that he’s not in the business of showcasing guys for trade bait, and reasoned that he’s trying to get Petty reps to be the best player he can be to help the team – just like the rest of the guys in camp.
“There’s a ton of guys getting reps. We like to mix and match people and see how they match up and play,” Bowles said. “There’s a lot of guys put in the first, second, and third team. That doesn’t mean anything. We’re just trying different combinations.”
Whether Petty will be showcased or not during the remainder of the preseason, he’s still auditioning for a gig – either to remain in a Jets uni or for another franchise. No team will likely trade for the Baylor product, especially if they can get him without giving up compensation if he’s cut. But if he can expand on last Thursday’s preseason performance when he went 7-of-14 for 93 yards in five series during the Jets’ 17-13 win over the Jaguars, he can make it a difficult decision for Bowles.
The Jets say they’re not showcasing Petty, but if they are, they might want to give him most of Smith’s preseason reps. Smith is entrenched as the No. 2 behind Fitzpatrick, so there’s really not much need to have him eat into Petty’s development, especially as the young signal caller gets pummeled behind the third-string offensive line and throws to undrafted receivers. If the Jets truly value his development, or want to gauge his progress, or simply want to secure his health, they need to see what he could do with first-rate talent at his disposal.
Consider his supporting cast against the Jaguars, it’s a minor miracle he was able to post those decent numbers – and get out of that game physically intact. Petty was throwing to two undrafted rookie wideouts in Jalin Marshall and Robby Anderson, another rookie in seventh rounder Charone Peake, and a second-year unknown in Chandler Worthy. And his personal protector in blitz pickup was undrafted rookie running back Romar Morris. With all due respect to the aforementioned, none are going to help Petty showcase his talents or help his progression.
Petty was pressured on more than half of his drop backs, was sacked twice, and hit another four times. He said prior to the Jacksonville game that he wanted to “light it up” and “Brett Favre it,” meaning go out there and “wow” the masses and “ball out.”
But if the Jets continue to surround him with spotty talent, they’ll never get to see his real potential this summer – whether as trade bait or as a legitimate spot on the 53-man roster. Because as of right now, he’s closer to looking more like Atlanta Falcon Favre instead of the guy who recently donned a gold jacket.