Christian Hackenberg may have become the first quarterback in NFL history to play a preseason game while wearing handcuffs on Saturday night.
At least that’s what it felt like.
The second-year Jets quarterback got plenty of playing time, entering after one series in the first quarter and playing deep into the third, but the offense was so conservative it felt like Steve Bannon was the new Jets offensive coordinator, not John Morton.
Hackenberg completed 18 of 25 passes for 127 yards, averaging a measly 5.1 yards per attempt, in a 7-3 Jets win over the Titans. It was the preseason opener for both teams, and it was as ugly as you would expect a game in early August to be.
For Hackenberg, there were plenty of positives. He did not throw an interception, looked more certain on the field than he has, and he did not hold onto the ball too long — something that has plagued him in practice.
Still, it was hard to walk away wowed by the player the Jets took 51st overall in 2016 out of Penn State because most of his throws were short, safe passes. He only aired it out downfield once, and his longest completion was 14 yards. That may have been partly Hackenberg’s choice, but it felt like the coaches limited the game plan to help Hackenberg’s confidence, and because they don’t trust him to run the full offense. He also fumbled a snap in the third quarter that was lost to the Titans on what looked like a miscommunication with center Jonotthan Harrison.
“He’s got some things to build off,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s got some positives that we can look at and he can build from. He’s got some negatives we’ve got to correct. It’s to be expected in the first game.”
Hackenberg completed his first five passes. He played eight series, scoring on none of them. They ended in six punts, a missed field goal and the fumble.
“It felt good to play again,” Hackenberg said. “There’s some things we have to clean up, but I think overall we did a…