Christian Hackenberg made his much awaited debut for the Jets in the game against the Giants. He led the Jets to a touchdown, and gave hope to Jets’ fans for the future, although some of the faults that showed up in college came back to bite him in the preseason. Let’s examine how he did:
This is Hackenberg’s first pass of the game, and an excellent introduction into his ability. The Giants are playing single high safety on this play, and only really rush three people on this play. They drop everyone else back, and dare Hackenberg to beat them. He goes through all of the reads, with Chandler Worthy as the fifth read on this play. As Hackenberg scans the field, the linebackers all follow his eye and move away from Worthy. This is an absolutely beautiful throw, placed where his WR can be the only one to make the play on this throw. Of course, Worthy drops the pass and it ends up an incomplete pass. This is a great example of his ability to read the field and make a strong throw.
This play is set up perfectly, and expertly run right up until the most important part, which was the pass. The Jets are running a screen here, but Hackenberg sets this up perfectly with his eye movement. He sells the read and possible pass to his right, moving all the linebackers to that side in a similar fashion to the last play. The Jets have this set up perfectly, they have a WR blocking one defender with an offensive lineman running out to block the one defender in the open. This could be a big pass, but Hackenberg makes a horrible throw on this play. Notice the timing of this play as well, when the RB is starting to turn around be simultaneous with the timing of Hackenberg turn around as well. This is an easy screen pass, and Hackenberg doesn’t put enough loft on the pass and throws the pass behind the RB. Atone Smith can’t make an one handed play on this pass, and it leads to an incomplete pass. Hackenberg struggled mightily in college with screen passes, so it’s disheartening to see him struggle with the same concept in the preseason games.
This throw is one of the biggest reasons why Jets’ fans should be hopeful to the future. This is a 3rd and 15 throw, with the Giants playing back trying to prevent the first down. When you hear people talk about “throwing receivers open” this is what they are talking about. Zach Sudfeld is well covered on this play, but Hackberg puts the ball right on the TE for the conversion. Notice the timing of Hackenberg’s windup on this throw, because Sudfeld is just not open at the time. Also, notice how Hackenberg steps up with his lead foot on this throw, helping him be accurate with the throw.
This is a good pass by Hackenberg and a nice catch by Charone Peake. The Giants are playing two high safety on this play, but Peake moving at the line causes some confusion on the defense. The middle linebacker moves up to cover Peake on this play, while the CB that was initially covering Peake moves back. This late movement causes an issue with the defense, essentially giving Peake a free release and allowing him a straight run towards the safety. Hackenberg realizes this matchup, alas right out of the run fake, he’s looking for Peake, and makes a good throw. It isn’t a great throw, because the pass is a bit behind the WR, who makes a good adjustment to the pass. Also, notice how wide open Robby Anderson is at the end of it.
A very good throw by Hackenberg, and a nice catch by Robby Anderson, who absolutely blows by his defender. The Giants are again in one deep safety look here, but man coverage underneath. Anderson runs by his defender on the inside, and then turns outside to create separation, as well as a favorable angle for the QB. Hackenberg makes a very good throw here, however he is making this throw flat footed. It doesn’t cost him on this play, but lazy mechanics have cost zip on his passes in college. This pass is impeccably placed, so there wasn’t anything the defender could do to defend the completion. The second aspect which makes this play successful is the slot WR on the right, who makes a very good double move on his defender, which creates a big problem for the high safety. The safety has to choose between Anderson and the WR down the middle, and he chooses the middle WR, which allows Hackenberg to throw to Anderson without the fear of a safety over the top. This is a good read by the young QB, and a good throw, although the mechanics need to be better.
The first TD for Hackenberg in his Jets career, and this is a beautiful throw and catch. It’s reminiscent of Decker’s TD against the Patriots last year, with a perfectly placed throw. On this play, the Jets play a rub route with Peake, although it could have been called a penalty, with Anderson going one on one with a safety. Anderson fakes an inside route, to which the safety bites, and then runs outside creating separation. This route is over at this point, because the safeties always have to play the inside route since it’s an easier throw. To make the outside throw, the QB has to lob the ball over the safety, but before the sidelines. Hackenberg makes a great throw where Anderson is the only one that can make a play on the ball. Once the ball was throw, the safety might as well have stopped and headed back to the bench, because he has no shot on this throw.
Remember the bad mechanics? Well Hackenberg displays bad mechanics on this play, which takes zip off the football, thus allowing for a LB to tip the ball. Hackenberg opens up too much on this pass, which leads to a slower pass, although the LB does make a good play on the ball. If he steps up on this pass, there is a better chance the ball has more zip, and therefore less time for the LB to adjust his route (which is going the other way) and tip the pass. This is a good read by Hackenberg, as Anderson is open on the play, but it doesn’t reach him without being tipped.
An Absolutely horrible throw by Hackenberg, which leads to an interception. This is a third down play with their backs against the goal, and the Giants drop back a lineman into the passing lane in the middle. Hackenberg reads the play from his left to right, but for some reason assumes the lineman will follow the slot receiver to the outside, but the lineman doesn’t bite. Hackenberg make the throw to a TE, who beats the individual defender and would be open in a vacuum. However, the lineman jumps the route for the pass in the middle and gets the pass thrown right towards him for an easy interception. The lineman misses the catch, but tips it up enough for a LB to intercept the pass. This is a throw that many Jets’ fans have seen from Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith. This is one of Hackenberg’s biggest weaknesses, because he has trouble with linebackers and lineman who drop back into coverage. The Jets need to utilize the running game more with him in the game to keep the defense honest.
Another horrible decision and throw from Hackenberg, as he locks into Anderson from the snap. The pocket is clean for the most part, but Hackenberg makes a bad read. On the Sudfeld throw, you saw the positive side of throwing a WR open, but this is the negative side of it. On this play, Anderson isn’t open on the play when Hackenberg makes the throw, but unfortunately for the Jets, Anderson doesn’t get any separation. There is an argument that the defender could have been called for pass interference. Extrapolating Anderson’s position from when Hackenberg starts his windup, to where the ball ends up, the pass would have been a bit behind the WR had Anderson continued inhibited towards the middle. This is another example of Hackenberg opening up a bit more than necessary to make this throw . By rule, pitchers in baseball are told to point their toes to where they want to throw the ball to gain optimal control. You notice on a consistent basis, that Hackenberg opens up too much, which causes him to rely more on his arm than mechanics. Football isn’t quite the same as pitching because sometimes QBs have to release the ball before optimal set up, but that’s not the case here because the pocket is clean for Hackenberg.
This is a failed screen pass, and probably the best evidence of Antoine Smith not making the team. Instead of finding an opening for a screen pass, Smith gets stuck on the defensive line, making a completion all but impossible. Since this is a set screen play, Hackenberg can’t be blamed for not stepping up for this pass because he needs to lead the defensive line up the field to create more space for the RB. Remember the first screen pass (also a failure) and how it was set up perfectly? Notice Hackenberg on both plays, then observe where the RB is when he makes the turn for the screen pass. On the first one, the RB is in the open perfectly for the pass. On this play, Smith is all but on the ground trying to wiggle free, which ends this play before anything develops.
A 3rd down play and another conversion. The Giants are playing zone on this play, and Hackenberg makes this play perfectly. First, he holds the center of the zone (the LB in the middle) with his eyes, and looking towards his right. This creates a triangle of space for Anderson to settle in, which makes for an easy throw. There is ample evidence that Hackenberg has the mental side of the game down, and this is a very good example of his abilities. He makes the entire defense shy away from Anderson because he’s not even looking at him until the last second, therefore the LB can’t move towards Anderson to close off the open area. Anderson also runs a good route on this play, and settles in the soft part of the zone, showing good field awareness. It’s a great throw and read.
Another screen pass, another failure. This is a fairly easy set up, with the screen set up as a dump off to the right side. However, the Giants have a rusher come up the middle to cause Hackenberg to move back in the pocket. As the defender grabs Hackenberg, he makes a good throw to the RB, who flat out drops the ball. The ball hits Antoine Smith right on the arms, and the Jets have this set up to be a very good play for a decent gain. The Giants are dropping more and more people for Hackenberg, forcing him to read his progressions. Chan Gailey counters this by dialing up screen passes, but they just failed over and over again. The play call is so that the Giants would give up yards on screens, but also force their LBs to step up further on future plays. This is a great example of an OC trying to help the QB with play design, but it didn’t work out for the Jets.
This play was highlighted by the announcers because Smith had a shot at the first down, but chose to go lateral, and then get stuffed short of the marker. An absolute horrible play by the RB on this play, given the situation. As for Hackenberg, he makes a good read and makes sure that Smith has enough room for yards after the catch. This should have been a first down, but Smith fails. This play is more to highlight what Gailey is trying to do with screen plays, as you notice the amount of space that is available between the RB and the defenders.
To set up this play, remember the Jets were stuffed on third and short with Geno Smith earlier in the game. They go for a pass on 4th and 1 on this play, but it starts off with a bad snap, which causes Hackenberg to lose concentration. To make matters worse, there is a free blitzing linebacker coming at Hackenberg right in his line of sight, which causes Hackenberg to panic and throw a bad pass to Sudfeld. On this play, both Chandler Worthy and Robby Anderson are open, but Hackenberg goes towards Sudfeld as he’s being taken down. One of the reasons why David Carr failed with the Texans was because he would lose his sight line when pressured. Hackenberg slid in the draft because they feared that the porous offensive line at PSU caused him to lose his line of sight when pressured. This play is a good example of it, as Hackenberg is looking straight at a wide open Worthy, or Anderson as he crosses the middle.
Christian Hackenberg made his debut for the Jets and he played well. He had some really nice reads and good throws during the game. The TD throw to Robby Anderson was a great pass, but his troubles with screen passes show up during the game. There were some instances where the foot opens up too much, causing some inaccuracies. The interception was just a horrible read and throw by Hackenberg, which leads to his up and down nature. Overall, it was a good debut for Hackenberg, although he does have some flaws to clean up.
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Please check out prior articles of our Weapons Check series: (Jalin Marshall) (Charone Peake) (Darron Lee) (Robby Anderson)
Also read our college based scouting report on Christian Hackenberg from earlier this year: (Pros) (Cons) (Team Failure) (Summary)