Jets QB Christian Hackenberg enters 2017 season with 'different level of confidence'

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Monday, May 15, 2017

CALDWELL, N.J. -- Even though he didn't play a single regular-season snap as a rookie, Christian Hackenberg believes he's entering 2017 with "a different level of confidence" -- and he expects that to serve him well in the New York Jets' quarterback competition.

"I'm a lot more comfortable in Year 2," he said Monday, speaking to reporters for the first time since the end of the season. "I really, really feel good about where I'm at."

Hackenberg will compete against veteran Josh McCown and third-year quarterback Bryce Petty, who started four games last year. Coach Todd Bowles is calling it an open competition, saying all three will get a shot in the spring.

McCown, 37, is the favorite based on his experience in the league, but Hackenberg -- a former second-round pick -- will get every chance to prove himself.

"I think I got better in a lot of ways, even going back to the day I stepped foot in the building until the end of the season," said Hackenberg, who was active for only one game and spent a good chunk of 2016 as the fourth quarterback on a four-man depth chart.

The Jets were criticized for not getting Hackenberg into a game. They called it a "redshirt year," but there were private concerns about his readiness.

Bowles said recently that he expects Hackenberg to have more "pep in his step" now that he's competing for the starting job.

Hackenberg agreed with that, adding he's "more confident in the situation, more confident walking in the building, more confident with the guys in the locker room and in the huddle."

He called it "natural growth." There's pressure on him because, if he doesn't show significant progress, the Jets likely will try to tap into what experts are calling a loaded 2018 quarterback class.

Despite intense speculation, the Jets didn't draft a quarterback last month. Hackenberg said he doesn't necessarily view that as a vote of confidence.

"Whether that's a sign of confidence or not, I have to hold up my end and get better and continue to grow and take advantage of this spring and summer," he said, speaking at teammate David Harris' charity golf outing in New Jersey.

Petty, who shared a golf cart with Hackenberg, said he has been cleared to participate in OTA practices, which start next week. He underwent surgery in December to repair a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder.

Petty said he's "full speed, full tilt. Everything is good. I'm clicking right now."

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