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Projected starter: Josh McCown
Projected back-ups: Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty
On the bubble: None
Departures: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith
Key stat: It's been 10 years since McCown threw more than two interceptions in a game.
When the Jets signed McCown, various factors made the move a logical one. However, based on how the offseason has played out, it's likely the team's priorities have shifted. The original plan might have involved McCown taking charge of the offense and keeping the team competitive before passing the torch to a younger option. Now, the urgency to remain competitive is perhaps a secondary concern to figuring out exactly what they have in their youngsters at the earliest possible opportunity.
McCown is still likely to open the season as a starter, but he's suffered a broken collarbone in each of the past two seasons, so the Jets might ultimately be forced into a move at some point anyway.
For as long as he is in the role, McCown's experience will be valuable and could provide more of a steadying influence on a team that showed a tendency to melt down on offense several times last season. McCown is by no means immune to making mistakes, but he hasn't been a player that forces risky throws or throws a lot of pick sixes. One thing he does well is accurately throwing jump balls down the field, which could be a way of generating some production from Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson.
One of the other main reasons they signed McCown was because he can mentor Hackenberg and Petty. Many have been skeptical of McCown's ability to do this since the list of quarterbacks that have played behind him in the past is not that impressive. However, the media has been complimentary of McCown's intelligence and candor, many characterizing him as a potential coach in the future.
McCown's best season came in 2013 with the Bears in a West Coast system with multiple elements, which suggests he'll be well-suited to John Morton's new offense. If the weapons on offense are expected to develop, McCown needs to execute the system competently early on.
After he did not see action last season, there is plenty of attention being centered on Hackenberg, a second-year pro out of Penn State. It was wise for the Jets to stick to their reasoning behind keeping Hackenberg under wraps last season, but with a full year of NFL exposure under his belt, is he ready?
Hackenberg's tools and intangibles would seem to make him a good fit for the new offense if he can put it all together, but his struggles with accuracy, pocket poise and decision making in college make this uncertain. The Jets believe those issues are fixable, and Hackenberg has been working hard to eradicate some technical flaws that may have been exacerbating some of his struggles. While he has undoubtedly progressed over the last year, it's painfully clear that he's still a work in progress and remains to be seen how he'll continue to develop.
Despite his negative reputation, Hackenberg was not prone to completely melting down in college, much like McCown. He never threw more than two interceptions in a game and had a string of 202 passes without an interception in his final season, ending the year with just six. While he needs to improve his completion percentage, this perhaps gives hope that he could be a successful game manager-type if called upon.
Petty saw his first NFL action last season, winning one of his four starts in a late comeback performance in San Francisco. Despite the progress he's made since being drafted, he seems to be something of a forgotten man in the quarterback battle.
His pedigree as a spread-system quarterback perhaps means he wouldn't be an ideal fit within an offense with West Coast elements, so that will likely handicap him in this battle. As long as he continues to develop, he retains some value, but his future may not lie with the Jets.
Outlook: Last year, quarterbacks played unexpectedly poor all year long. It's not out of the question that McCown could provide an upgrade over Fitzpatrick's 2016 performance. The back-ups will also have progressed a lot since last year. But with a weakened supporting cast and a rebuilding perspective that looks beyond 2017, it's going to be challenging for the Jets to be competitive.