Remember all that progress that Christian Hackenberg appeared to make in the Jets' preseason opener? Well, by Week 2 it was gone.
Hackenberg, getting a surprise start over veteran Josh McCown, gave an ugly and unproductive performance in the Jets 16-6 loss to the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit. He was a miserable 2 of 6 for 14 yards, with both completions coming on dump-offs to running back Bilal Powell. In a full half of action he led the Jets to just two first downs and a total of 43 yards.
He basically proved he's not ready to be the starter on Opening Day.
That's not surprising, but it is disappointing coming off what was generally viewed as an encouraging performance in the Jets' preseason-opening 7-3 win over the Tennessee Titans one week ago. He completed 72 percent of his passes in that game (18 of 25) for 127 yards. No, he wasn't asked to do much and the offense didn't score, but he was efficient, accurate and decisive -- three things he definitely was not against the Lions on Saturday night.
Maybe with a lack of playmakers at receiver and an offensive line that's a work in progress, McCown wouldn't have fared much better. But Hackenberg's bad throws and the times he held the ball too long were reminders of why McCown is all but certain to be the Opening Day starter. While the rest of the Jets' young offense is still trying to figure out what it's doing, they can't afford to have a quarterback who's trying to figure out what he's doing too.
If nothing else, McCown is a veteran who has played in West Coast offenses before. Hackenberg will eventually get his shot. But for now, McCown is far more ready than Hackenberg is for live action in a regular season game.
Here are some other thoughts, observations and analysis from the Jets' loss on Saturday night:
- Bowles said his offensive line is basically wide open and he proved it by starting Jonotthan Harrison at center, Brandon Shell at right tackle and Ben Ijalana at left tackle, then replacing them late in the first quarter with Wesley Johnson (center), Kelvin Beachum (LT) and Brent Qvale (RT). The result? They only gave up two sacks, but there was absolutely no push which was a big problem for the rushing attack. Offensive linemen always talk about the importance of continuity and playing with the same lineup. Bowles needs to settle on a five-man lineup soon.
- Receiver Charone Peake should've caught at least one of Hackenberg's incompletions and maybe Austin Seferian-Jenkins could've caught another. And who knows how many other times a route was blown or a receiver just couldn't find enough separation? The larger point is that the Jets' lack of playmakers at receiver (and tight end) was painfully obvious, which is really problematic when dealing with a young quarterback.
- Don't be surprised if this is what the Jets' offense looks like for much of the season. Not necessarily this bad, but the Lions drew a pretty good blueprint for how to defend them. They stacked the line against the run and showed no respect for the passing game. The result: They were right not to respect the passing game which accounted for minus-3 total yards in the first half. And despite the presence of Powell, the rushing attack only accounted for 46 first-half yards - and Hackenberg trying to run out of trouble accounted for 11 of those.
- Both Marcus Murphy and Frankie Hammond fumbled returns for the Jets. Now everyone can see why the loss of Lucky Whitehead was bigger than it seemed. This Jets team is going to have a lot of trouble scoring and moving the ball. It'll be a lot more difficult if the return game doesn't help. It'll be impossible if the returners can't hold onto the football.
- Don't let the Jets' defense escape blame in this game. The Lions had 182 yards in the first half. Quarterback Matt Stafford was 8 of 10 for 84 yards. Granted, he's pretty good and they're a high-scoring offense. But consider that Lions backup QB Jake Ruddock went 6 of 8 for 67 yards against the Jets' starting defense. In an interview during the third quarter on CBS, defensive tackle Steve McLendon blamed the issues on the Jets being "on the road" in an environment that was "a little bit hostile". In the preseason? Really?
- Not much clarity in the kicking competition after Saturday night. Ross Martin was wide left on a 56-yarder, which matched the 55-yarder that Chandler Catanzaro missed last week. Martin did nail a 31-yarder and a 28-yarder. That's good, of course, but Catanzaro hasn't had a short or even mid-range attempt yet. Maybe next week.
- Bryce Petty still has basically no shot to be the Jets' starting quarterback, or probably even the No. 2, but he did look sharp at times, completing 15 of 24 passes for 160 yards and leading the Jets on two field goal drives -- which for them, really, is an offensive explosion. Of course, it was against the Lions' second- and third-stringers on defense. And he seemed to get better protection from the Jets' third-team offensive line. His night ended with an interception in the end zone with five seconds left.
- Two injuries to report, according to Todd Bowles: S Rontez Miles had an eye laceration, and DL Anthony Johnson suffered a stinger.