Florham Park, NJ – Another day of Jets camp, another day of us reporters wondering how we can accurately judge this Jets defense. The Jets defense has looked dominate, but is that because of how good they are? Or because of how bad the offense is? Or a little bit of both? Most likely both with some training camp tends to favor the defenses early, especially when the new offense is learning a new system. But it’s been lopsided, really lopsided and while the offense has done a little better these past two days, the defense continues to do far more.
1) Hackenberg fails to take advantage of most first-team reps – Todd Bowles continues to insist that it’s an open three-way competition for the starting quarterback job, but the reps tell a different story. Josh McCown has gotten far more first-team reps than Christian Hackenberg who has gotten far more first-team and second-team reps than Bryce Petty. Today that changed, but don’t read too much into that. It’s not like Hackenberg had practiced so well lately that he was challenging McCown for the top spot, this is just how Bowles tends to operate. Everyone gets some first-team reps at some point.
But still Hackenberg had an opportunity to use those reps to prove that he deserves more of those reps, but he failed to capitalize on the opportunity. He did have one phenomenal pass to Robby Anderson (who had another good day after struggling for much of camp) where he dropped the ball perfectly into Anderson’s hands about 20-25 yards down the sideline and just outside on Juston Burris’ outstretched arms. But Hackenberg also threw two interceptions in team drills for the second day in a row, he had managed avoiding interceptions until yesterday but he had a handful dropped and he’s still only completing around 50 percent of his passes in team drills. He’s shown some progress, but that’s simply not enough.
After the first few days of camp it seemed that McCown was clearly a better option than Hackenberg who was clearly a better option than Bryce Petty, but over the past four or five practices Petty has been the one to show improvement. He’s making some really impressive throws and far fewer bad throws, he’s definitely having trouble completely grasping the offense, as is Hackenberg and to a far lesser extent McCown, as the offense continues to struggle just getting plays in and lined up correctly. This isn’t to say Petty deserves the number two spot, most of what he’s doing is against the third-team defense and he’s gotten far less reps so maybe with more reps would come more mistakes, but considering who the two quarterbacks are in front of him and how they are playing it’s not crazy to wonder if Petty might deserve some more reps.
McCown got the least amount of reps today, but again don’t read anything into that. It will likely happen again tomorrow and that’s because they are getting ready for Saturday’s game where McCown is likely only going to play a series or two. Hackenberg will probably finish the rest of the first half, maybe a series or two in the second at most with Petty closing the game out.
2) Sacks – So back to the part about having trouble gauging if this defense is really good or the offense is really bad. It’s not just the quarterbacks struggling and not just the receivers, the offensive line continues to get whooped too and today the defense continued to get sacks. Leonard Williams continues to be the best player on the field, but the sacks can come from anywhere, at any given time. Sometimes the quarterback should throw the ball faster, but a lot of the times they don’t even have time to finish their drop before a defender is in their face. It’s a good sign for the defense, ominous for the offense. I’ll leave it up you to decide which side you want to focus on more.
3) Ross Martin – Listen, most of the practices have generated the same observations. Leonard Williams is a stud, both Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams have looked great and I’d actually argue Maye has been more impressive lately but Adams is so steady and consistent. The defense on a whole looks great, the offense not so much. So admittedly I’m struggling to come up with new observations, so let’s talk kickers.
The Jets signed former Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro and brought back Ross Martin to compete for the job. Martin looked poised to win the job in training camp last year, but shanked some in preseason and the Jets had to let him go. So far again Martin looks to be the better kicker, he certainly has the stronger leg as he makes 50 yard field goals in practice look easy. But can he do it in the games? We will get our first look on Saturday, but right now he easily looks like the better kicker and if he has gotten past the gamely jitters the Jets might have a really good kicker on their hands.
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)