<
>

Jets rookie Christian Hackenberg goes from second round to second field

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The media got their first chance to see Christian Hackenberg in a full-squad setting on Wednesday, and the main takeaway was this:

He's not Troy Aikman or John Elway. Chan Gailey, the New York Jets' offensive coordinator, said so.

"He's doing a good job," Gailey said of the Jets' rookie quarterback. "He's like every other quarterback I've had, except two. He can work on fundamentals and get better in a lot of ways."

You already know the two exceptions.

Gailey was the Dallas Cowboys' head coach for the latter stage of Aikman's career, and he was a Denver Broncos assistant for some of Elway's prime years. Aikman and Elway were blue-chip prospects who went on to Hall of Fame careers. Hackenberg was a second-round pick who didn't play particularly well in his final two seasons at Penn State, so no one is putting him in the legends category. But the Jets like his upside; they believe he has the potential to be a winning quarterback.

Early impressions?

Let's just say Hackenberg experienced a few hiccups, which is normal at this stage. Practicing on the No. 2 field, with mostly rookies and bottom-of-the-depth-chart players, he threw a couple of interceptions and was high with some throws. He hasn't made it to the No. 1 field just yet. For now, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty are handling the quarterback reps with the starters and top backups.

Gailey spent the first two days of practice on the main field, so he had to base his evaluation of Hackenberg on what he sees on tape. And? Gailey gave a lukewarm "OK," adding, "He's done a couple of good things. He's a work in progress."

Hackenberg struggled with his accuracy at Penn State, compiling a career completion mark of only 56 percent. If he has a mechanical flaw, it'll be detected by Gailey, who has a keen eye. Referring to quarterbacks who have a tendency to throw high, Gailey said the remedy could be as simple as telling him to cut down on the velocity. Sometimes, the answer isn't simple.

"Getting someone to change takes thousands of reps," Gailey said, alluding to a mechanical flaw. "You have to work very hard on it."

From all indications, Hackenberg is a gym rat, always in his playbook. He's still in the just-happy-to-be-here mode, a wide-eyed rookie insisting he's not paying attention to the swirling Ryan Fitzpatrick contract standoff. He's minding his own X's and O's, getting a feel for his fellow quarterbacks.

"There's pretty good camaraderie in that room right now," Hackenberg said. "I feel pretty accepted."