John Morton seemed to like everything he saw with Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg on Saturday night. He liked his poise, his decisiveness, the decisions he made. It was clearly a step in the right direction.
But was it a big step toward Hackenberg getting the starting job?
That's a question that Morton, the Jets new offensive coordinator, wasn't willing to answer on Tuesday. In fact, Morton made it sound like Hackenberg still has a long ways to go.
"I think that's too early to tell," Morton said. "We're just in training camp mode. We've got to play a couple more preseason games, and then we'll have a better feel to see where we're at, because it's a whole different story once you get into a game and evaluate guys. That's the real evaluation."
Morton also reminded everyone that "Basically he's a rookie," which is true considering Hackenberg didn't take a single regular-season snap during his first year. Still, in the preseason opener when he completed 18-of-25 passes for 127 yards he did some things that he wasn't able to do in his two disastrous preseason appearances last year.
"I like how he's taking care of the ball," Morton said. "I think he's done a really good job there. We're still in the evaluation process, but he gets better every day. He took care of the ball. That's the No. 1 thing we always talk about with everybody. He was decisive on his throws. I thought he was accurate. I thought he did a really nice job."
Of course, almost all of Hackenberg's throws were short passes, leading many to believe that was the plan so the former second-round pick wouldn't be overwhelmed. Morton pushed back on that, insisting he had a more open game plan than it appeared. The big plays that were called, though, apparently just weren't there.
"We called plays where we were taking shots," Morton said. "If it ain't there, we check the ball down. It just happened to be in those certain situations -- whatever the situation was, whether we were getting pressure or anything like that -- he has to go through his progressions. And I thought he did a really nice job of doing that."
That's another step in the right direction, but it still sounds like Hackenberg is almost certainly in line to be the backup on opening day. Because when Morton talked about Josh McCown - who went 3-for-4 for 72 yards and a touchdown on his one preseason series - the offensive coordinator positively glowed.
"I love competitive guys," Morton said about McCown. "They just want to do so well. I've been around some real competitive players, Hall of Fame players. They demand perfection. They want everything to be perfect. We love that about him. That was one of the reasons why we brought him here.
"I like his leadership. I like how he takes control of the offense. He's seen a lot of football, obviously. I like that. I like his experience. That's the biggest thing. He's been great for the whole team."