Film Review: Christian Hackenberg – Preseason Week 2 (Lions)
The Jets did not have a good week, as they lost to the Lions this week in the pre-season. While the games are essentially meaningless, the offense led by Christian Hackenberg looked absolutely lifeless against a Lions defense that was ranked thirty second in the league (dead last) in passing defense last year by Football Outsiders. The offensive line did not do a good job, but Hackenberg seemed timid in his approach, afraid to take opportunities down the field. Here is the film review (Since the total amount of plays is shorter than usual, all aspects of the Hackenberg film review will be in this article).
The first good play of the game from Hackenberg comes in the second quarter, and relies mainly on his legs. The play call on this play is a bit puzzling because it’s 3rd and 10, and the first read on this play is a short four yard pass to Jalin Marshall. Hackenberg correctly decides to avoid the throw, but it seems like an extremely conservative call. Hackenberg steps up in the pocket and shows good mobility to run down the field and get the first down. Hackenberg also does a good job of locating the first down marker and sliding before he takes an unnecessary hit. A hat tip to Bilal Powell for absolutely destroying the blitzing linebacker as well.
Remember the screen pass issues from last week, where Hackenberg started to look for the screen pass too early, and tipped off the defense? Well, Hackenberg does it the right way this time, although this is not a straight screen pass. It’s likely that the screen pass was a safety valve option, after going through his progressions down the field. Hackenberg shows good mechanics as he steps into this throw and places the ball perfectly for Powell, who rumbles down the field for yards after the catch. Hackenberg has a bad tendency of showing his hands while dropping back, so this is good progression to see him hold the defenders with his eyes and primary read, and then making a good throw to Powell. Unfortunately, this one play was the major bulk of the offense in the first half.
This play is sitting on the borderline of team failure and Hackenberg’s failure. The Lions’ defense absolutely baits Hackenberg with a pre-snap look and the young QB falls for it. The Lions show blitz in a wide alignment, with the left defensive end lined up wide of the right tackle. The defense is also showing single high safety (As reported last week, the lack of coach’s tape makes the recognition of defensive alignments a form of guesswork, so there is never absolute certainty). Hackenberg recognizes the blitz look, and has a hot read in the tight end for the first down. However, the Lions do not blitz and drop the extra linebacker right into the hot read zone, which throws off this entire play, because Hackenberg no longer has the easy pass for the completion. Hackenberg has to wait for the TE to break outside, and because the blitz disguise caused him to look at his hot read first, he’s oblivious to the approaching defender. The Jets offensive line gets completely fooled as well because the right tackle does not pick up the defensive player. Essentially the Lions created a blitz without sending an extra defender because the Jets blocked four guys with five lineman. The wide alignment concept has been a major problem for the Jets’ offensive line for a couple of years (first started with the Eagles game against Chip Kelly) and they have yet to completely solve it. There is blame to go around for the QB and the offensive line here. Hackenberg got baited into his hot read due to a blitz look, but the majority of the flaw goes towards the offensive line for allowing a straight runner towards the QB on a play where they need eight yards. A veteran QB may have called an audible, and had Powell at least chip block the defender to slow him down, but Hackenberg did not make that audible.
For our scouting report last year, we compared Charone Peake to Stephen Hill. One of the cons for Peake was that he tends to have bad drops at times, which we diagnosed as “Hill-aria”. Well, the “Hill-aria” ailment comes back here because this ball practically hits Peake in the head. Hackenberg does a good job with the throw and places it high for Peake, but he doesn’t get his hands up in time. Another issue with this play is the bad route set up from Peake because he doesn’t get the hips of the defender turned at all before making his move inside. Peake would have been better of moving up the field about a yard to get the CB to move back, before making his cut and creating a better angle. Since the Jets need five yards on this play, the angle for Peake is a diagonal route, which allows for the defender to get back in the play and be physical. With the absence of Enunwa (Along with Marshall/Decker), the Jets need someone to step up as the No. 2 receiver. Charone Peake has a chance to be that No. 2 receiver but he has to work on his release at the line to get more separation. This ball should have been caught, instead it almost ended up as an interception.
Offensive line shows up again as a point of failure. The Lions rush four, the Jets have five men to block, yet Hackenberg barely reaches his second progression read before being sacked. On this play the culprit is Brian Winters, who allows a one on one block to have inside leverage and leads him right to the QB. On the other hand, Hackenberg shares some blame as well on this play. While he’s back peddling, he’s staring down Anderson instead of looking off straight and relying on his footwork to tell him the timing. Notice the corner back defending Robby Anderson on his play, because he’s peeking into the backfield. As soon as he sees Hackenberg looking at Anderson, he takes a step forward, taking a chance that this is a short pass. If Hackenberg is not looking at Anderson from the get go, there is a greater chance the CB respects Anderson’s speed and this play is open. This is another example of the defense daring the Jets to beat them deep because if this was a go route with Anderson, the CB is going to be burned on this play. However, since Hackenberg hasn’t shown a proclivity to throwing deep passes in his NFL career, they are going to be aggressive on the shorter routes. Hackenberg gets off the first read and moves onto the second read right before getting sacked. The major fault on this play is with Brian Winters, but it also gives a little window into how and why the Lions were able to take away the short passing game.
The Lions defense played a good amount of single high safety looks, daring the Jets to beat them deep and taking away short passes. Most of it may have to do with Hackenberg thriving on short passes last week, and the defense planning to take Hackenberg away from his comfort zone. Hackenberg shows good mechanics in his drop back, and he stays tall in the pocket as he makes this pass. Also notice how he is holding the safety with his eyes before making the pass to Anderson. Unfortunately, for the Jets, this is a terrible throw. Anderson has a step on the defender but this pass misses him by a good two to three yards, and lands incomplete. This is just a terrible throw from Hackenberg because he needs to hit these deep throws with consistency to open up short passes. Right now, all defenses are going to move up the field and take away the short passing game until Hackenberg can prove that he can hit these deep throws. Also, Hackenberg misses an emerging play with the TE becoming open down the seam, although the decision making can’t be criticized as much because Anderson was also open. This is just a terrible throw.
The Jets have an excellent play dialed up here to free up the TE, Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Notice the pick play run by Jalin Marshall on this play, as his route is mainly concerned with impeding the path of the defender that is lined up for the TE. The play works perfectly, the LB is slowed down, and Jenkins is wide open. However, Hackenberg rushes this throw to the open TE, and makes it a touch catch. The mechanics of this throw is completely off for Hackenberg on the run, because his momentum is going diagonally away from his target, thus it’s an all arm throw. He needs to at least set his feet on this throw because this motion is not conducive to accuracy. Every NFL QB should hit this pass on a consistent basis because the TE is set up for a decent gain, if not more, based on his tackle breaking abilities. This is another terrible throw from Hackenberg.
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This play doesn’t even count, it was called for a penalty. However, this is just a horrible example of quarterbacking by Hackenberg. He stares down Robby Anderson from the get go, who is most likely running a come back route. Hackenberg shows a considerable lack of timing here with his progressions because his head is giving away the target, and allowing the defenders to be more aggressive. It’s a good thing that this throw was off-target because the defender was in great position to make a play on the ball. Hackenberg once again misses a TE going up the seam right by his defender because he’s locked in on his primary read. On the bright side, the Lions player on the sideline makes an easy catch.
Remember how earlier in the article, we mentioned Hackenberg has a tendency to give away his plan too early allowing the defense to react? More evidence to support the argument. This is a simple screen pass to the RB, but Hackenberg advertises the screen pass too early instead of waiting on his progression. Notice that as soon as Hackenberg looks towards Powell, the linebacker decides to run towards the running back and close the gap. By the time Hackenberg makes the throw, the gap between the defender and the runner is non-existent and this play goes for a loss.
Christian Hackenberg just does not look ready to take over the offense right now, because he seems to have major issues with timing. The West Coast Offense is predicated on timing, and he seems to confused with the timing of routes. He’s routinely staring down first reads, giving away the play development to the defense, and struggles with the timing of screen passes as well. While Hackenberg possess a great arm and good potential, the system seems to be overwhelming him right now and he did not look ready this week against the Lions. However, there is hope that once the timing is down pat in the system, he should progress better. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time left in the pre-season for him to show improvement so there has to be some tangible leaps in production next week for him to remain in the hunt for the starting job.
This would be an F if it wasn’t for the offensive line issues. Such lack of production from a QB is just not acceptable and the only thread of hope from this game in terms of his future is the horrible offensive line play.
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