Teddy Bridgewater looks good in 1st Jets OTA, says knee 'feels great'

ByRich Cimini via ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Attempting to reboot his once-promising career after a gruesome knee injury, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater participated in team drills and looked sharp Tuesday in his first practice with the New York Jets.

"It feels great," Bridgewater said of his surgically repaired left knee.

Bridgewater will battle incumbent Josh McCown and first-round pick Sam Darnold in the Jets' quarterback competition.

The Jets traded awayChristian Hackenbergto the Raiders on Tuesday. Hackenbergreceived no practice reps and later criticized the coaching staff for failing to help him clean up mechanical issues during his first two seasons.

Hackenberg, a former second-round pick who didn't play a single down in 2016 and 2017, hired a personal quarterback coach during the offseason. Working with Chicago-based Jeff Christensen, he shortened his throwing motion.

"There were some times when I threw it really good during my first two years here," Hackenberg said. "That was the frustrating part for me, the ups and downs and not knowing why -- does that make sense? -- and not really getting any information from anybody on how to fix that and how to address it."

While Hackenberg claimed he wasn't blaming the coaching staff for his struggles, he noted that he's happy "someone stepped up" to help him. That someone was former NFL quarterbacks coach David Lee, who worked with him and introduced him to Christensen. Coincidentally, Lee was the Jets' quarterbacks coach in 2013 and 2014.

The Jets had two offensive coordinators and two quarterback coaches in Hackenberg's first two seasons -- Chan Gailey and Kevin Patullo in 2016, and John Morton and Jeremy Bates in 2017. Bates was promoted to coordinator after the season.

The former Penn State standout said he met with Bates after the season to discuss ways to improve. They talked about tweaking his motion, but Bates "didn't think it could be done" in one offseason, Hackenberg said.

So he sought outside help.

Coach Todd Bowles said he learned only recently that Hackenberg had altered his throwing motion. Hackenberg offered a different version, saying "everybody [in the organization] knew about it" since January.

The Jets probably will release Hackenberg at some point, although the plan is to go to training camp with all four quarterbacks. The future is Darnold, who was picked third overall in the draft. The former USC star struggled in his first practice, appearing tentative with his reads. He received 21 reps -- more than any other quarterback, but not with the starters -- and threw two interceptions in seven-on-seven drills.

The biggest surprise was Bridgewater, whose availability for practice was uncertain. He had only nine reps (all with the backups), but he threw well on the run, showing no ill effects from his injury. Of course, this was a noncontact practice.

"The energy, the atmosphere, it was amazing," said Bridgewater, who signed a one-year contract.

McCown will go into training camp as the starter -- he took all the first-team reps -- but he could be pushed by a healthy Bridgewater, who insisted he's not worried about his role.

"I just have to trust the process," he said. "I'm happy about the situation I'm in. I've enjoyed my time here so far."

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