Christian Hackenberg might be the most scrutinized second round pick in NFL history, vilified among fans and reporters alike for his lack of accuracy and progression at Penn State University. The Jets decided to sit their prized QB prospect for an entire year, aiming to work on his mechanics, as he got acclimated to the NFL. Early reports this year seem to indicate that Hackenberg, has worked on his mechanics, and his accuracy has gotten considerably better. Albeit, be advised that this is just the first week of pre-season, so take all evaluation with a grain of salt. So let’s see how he did this week:
On this play, Hackenberg completes the pass to Robby Anderson, and he runs for the first down. This is not a perfect play because Hackenberg’s mechanics are not in order. The lead foot is facing perpendicular to the field (facing straight towards the sidelines) which means that Hackenberg is throwing across his body on this play. However, Anderson is wide open for this pass and Hackenberg delivers the pass on point, although the ball tails towards the sidelines because it generally goes towards where the lead foot is pointed (as we pointed out in an earlier article). This throw is also an example of his arm strength because Hackenberg throws the ball on a line to Anderson, even with inadequate mechanics.
Another completion to Robby Anderson, although this one is mechanically sound. The only downside to this throw is that, he’s staring down Anderson from the start, which could be a problem in the future. One of the downsides of breaking down film for the pre-season is that, there is no coach’s film to be viewed, therefore it’s impossible to tell what the defense is showing at the line. From the defensive reactions, it’s safe to presume that the corner back was giving Anderson plenty of space. While Hackenberg does stare down the receiver, this is very good recognition from the young QB at the line, because Anderson is bound to be open on the underneath pass. If by any chance the slot CB slides over in zone coverage, the slot receiver would be open thereafter. It’s the correct read to look at Anderson first on this play, although he could have disguised it better.
This is a great throw by Hackenberg, and a good read. The Titans are showing a single high safety (once again, presumably) with press coverage across the board. Generally, this should allow the slot receiver to have inside position on a slant (the slot CB has to defend against the out route as well) and Hackenberg makes an excellent throw with great mechanics and placement, as he hits the receiver in stride.
A well executed screen pass under duress from Hackenberg. as he makes this throw before his receiver has even begun to turn around. It shows very good anticipation and ball placement, as well as his ability to read the defense. Once the initial LB moved towards the QB, his receiver was going to be open for the screen pass because the secondary LB did not have the angle to attack the pass. Notice, Romar Morris (No. 30) miss on the block. He should most likely invest in a tackling dummy and use it as a continuing education tax write off because this isn’t the last time he’ll miss a block.
Overall this is a safe play, but on 3rd and long, it seems extremely conservative. It’s hard to criticize a QB without seeing what the other options are, thus we will just analyze the throw for this one. Hackenberg shows excellent velocity and ball placement on this pass to the tight end, although the play is well short of the first down marker. Notice the clean mechanics and how the lead foot is pointing towards the receiver.
Another good read on third down for Hackenberg as he goes through his progressions, and hits his receiver for a first down. Notice the head turn towards the left (towards Jalin Marshall) and the reaction of the defender in the slot. The slot defender moves towards the sideline, which leaves more area for the cutting receiver to turn up the field. It’d be near impossible to say that Hackenberg showed veteran poise out on the field, but there are flashes of ability, where he shows that he can manipulate defenders with his eyes, and this is one of them. Unfortunately, he has a long way to go before it become a major plus point for him.
This is a very good pass from Hackenberg on the move, with excellent ball placement. While Hackenberg has bad mechanics at times, he has a great arm and it is put on display when he’s on the move. This type of play would be thrown much slower by someone like Fitzpatrick, because he just doesn’t have the arm strength to pull it off.
Another example of Hackenberg going through his progressions, and standing tall in the pocket as it closes around him. He throws this ball with good velocity, but even better placement as he puts it away from the defender. The position of the pass allows the receiver to turn up field and get yards. It’s a good sign that Hackenberg did not panic under pressure on this play and still went to his safety outlet.
This might seem similar to a play from earlier, but Hackenberg shows excellent velocity and ball placement on this pass. The read on this play is simple, if the TE is well covered, then there is open space in the middle to pass to the receiver on the slant. In this case, there was space for the pass to the TE, and Hackenberg executed the play. Once again, notice the mechanics of the lead foot and where it is pointed.
While this play is a success, it could very well go under the “bad plays” section because Hackenberg reverts to terrible mechanics on this throw. His hips fly open, which causes him to throw this pass mainly with his arm. It’s impressive that he can get this much velocity on an “all arm” throw, but with a clean pocket, this has to be a throw where he steps into the pass. The ball tails on Hackenberg a bit, but the receiver is wide open thus it doesn’t cause much issue.
This might be the prettiest pass thrown by Hackenberg all night. While Hackenberg does look like he stared down his receiver (harder to tell without the end zone angle), he steps up into the pocket and delivers a laser to his receiver, which is placed perfectly. He shows great mechanics on this play as well, but shows off the cannon of an arm.
A good throw by Hackenberg, although his mechanics are a bit off. The turn towards the right, after the play action doesn’t look natural. Most right handed QBs tend the turn counter clockwise on this play, because it sets up their momentum and lead foot going forward. Hackenberg went the opposite way, which caused him to reset his feet and open his hips a bit too early (which causes the ball to sail a bit). It’s an excellent catch by the receiver, and a good play overall.
It’s still very early to tell if Hackenberg is the QB of the future or not, but he did look improved from the last time he was on the field. The mechanics seem to be better, and the decision making has improved as well. However, please remember that this is just the pre-season and most teams are playing vanilla defense, so much is left to be determined. There will be a (Teammates Mishap) and (Bad Plays) section as well, which will be posted later. Please check them out at your convenience.
Also please keep in mind that the telecast angles are limited, and therefore leaves a lot of guesswork in determining the routes and options. It is extremely early in the process so we have to wait and see how he develops.
A. If you could compare Hackenberg to one QB in the league (past or present), who would it be?
B. Who is the No. 2 receiver on the team?