Last night's second half served only to paper over the cracks of an abjectly terrible first half performance from the Jets; especially on offense.
That might ultimately tell us more about the Giants than the Jets because if you're a Giants fan, you have to be concerned about a lack of depth when you get dominated in the second half by a team that hadn't enjoyed anywhere near the same kind of success against the back-ups of their previous opponents.
Nevertheless, we're here to talk Jets and - despite the spirited fight back - it's the woeful first half that deserves the most attention.
Quarterbacks - Hack to the drawing board
If we needed unequivocal proof of the fact that Christian Hackenberg needs more time if he's going to even be able to function at the NFL level, last night's game provided it.
Once again, Hackenberg looked rattled and out of his depth. He displayed no pocket presence, failed to see open receivers and was perpetually inaccurate, but - more damaging than that - late.
It's exactly the same things we saw from Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith when they were forced into a starting role before they were ready. The game is moving too fast for Hackenberg; you can see it.
Hackenberg threw two pick-sixes, at which point we should pause to remind you that Josh McCown has never thrown two pick-sixes is a season. (In fact he's thrown just five in his career, with just two since 2005). The offense perhaps not looking so bad once a rep-starved McCown returns to the starting role is about the only optimistic viewpoint Jets fans have left.
Some people might want to defend or excuse Hackenberg's second pick-six because there was some misfortune involed. Robby Anderson caught his pass at the sticks, but a big hit jarred the ball loose and it ricocheted right to another Giants player. However, this was the same old issue. Throw late and you're asking for trouble.
As for the first pick-six, that's just not an NFL caliber throw. Staring his target down, floating the ball out to the flat and again releasing late.
Look at his half-time numbers and you might think that since Hackenberg completed over half of his passes and put up much more yards than last week, maybe there was some progress other than those two mistakes, but that's not the case. Hackenberg was inaccurate, even on a few of his completions, and took a couple of sacks he didn't need to.
Let's look at a couple of examples you might not have noticed from watching the game. Here's a play where Hackenberg took a sack and the Giants announcers said nobody was open. However, Kenbrell Thompkins is wide open on a slant route out of the slot for an easy first down. Hackenberg looks right at him but doesn't throw him the ball:
On this example, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is completely uncovered off the line. This isn't one of those plays where the quarterback looked the other way so the defense vacated that side of the field, he was literally uncovered off the line and when he looked back for the ball at the marker, he would have easily been able to pick up the first down and more. This time, Hackenberg never looks to that side and locks onto a dump off to the other flat, which is batted down by the two linemen in his face:
Finally, here's the second pick six. You can see how Anderson's break has given him separation and he can settle down at the marker. However, the ball should be on its way already. Once again, Hackenberg sees it late and releases the pass later, compounding the issue by trying to add zip to the pass and leaving it in the worst possible spot; high and to the defender side:
What's even more frustrating is that he went back into the game against back-ups and actually looked okay. Still not perfect, but moving the team and making some nice plays on the run and from the pocket. Without this impatient desire to audition him for a role he patently isn't ready for, Hackenberg could have primarily played against back-ups this week and last week and had some positive, confidence-boosting moments with just as many useful, teachable moments.
So you might have had to deal with fans and media calling for him to get his shot at the starter role he was never going to be ready for. So what? Grow a set.
This brings us to Bryce Petty who put up incredible numbers (15-for-18, 250 yards and three touchdowns in less than two quarters of action). Of course, there's little chance that he'd have achieved anything like that against the Giants starters, but now you have a situation where Petty is the one with some encouraging play against back-ups and calls for him to be considered as a starter. And who knows, if he'd been given a shot against starters at all this preseason, maybe he'd have proven himself worthy of that shot. It's too late now.
It seems harsh to nitpick someone who only had three incompletions but those passes were all inaccurate, as were a couple of his completions. However, he stated a desire to finish drives during the week and achieved that goal with three touchdown passes, albeit one on a dump-off with the other two to wide open receivers.
The overriding takeaway from Petty's performance was simply how much more under control he looked than Hackenberg. In large part, that comes from facing back-up defenders, though. Had their roles been flipped, it would have been interesting to see how they fared. Hackenberg's success when he returned to the game does put Petty's success into perspective though.
Petty didn't manage to finish his last drive, going down with a knee injury after one of his linemen got rolled up on him. It seems likely the Jets will bring in a camp arm as cover for Hackenberg in the Bollinger Bowl on Thursday.
Offensive Linemen - Wins of Winters
One major issue from the first two games was the poor performance of Brian Winters. He had a much more reliable performance in this game, not allowing any pressure and contributing a couple of good run blocks, as the Jets looked improved in the running game. Here was one of the better ones:
Looking back on the play last week where Winters surrendered an immediate sack to Hackenberg, it seems likely that center Jonotthan Harrison was supposed to give him some help to the inside and that's why Winters was beaten upfield so easily. With Wes Johnson back alongside him, Winters seemed more comfortable and avoided any mistakes.
Johnson didn't make much of an impact and let his man into the backfield a couple of times, but the line as a whole looks better with him in there. In the second half, Harrison had some good blocks, but he also had a high snap, missed his block on a play that was blown up in the backfield and got stood up on the game-ending two-point conversion.
Johnson and left guard James Carpenter let a defender split their double-team for a pressure and Carpenter also got flagged for a personal foul after a late hit. He flashed later on with a good pulling block.
It seems Brandon Shell may have surpassed Brent Qvale in the battle for the right tackle role, as he played the first half in this game. However, both are still a work in progress. Shell got off to a rocky start with a couple of plays where his man beat him at the line to make a stop for a safety and a play in pass protection where Jason Pierre-Paul slapped him to the ground to pressure Hackenberg. He bounced back with some good run blocks later in the half.
Qvale couldn't have made a worse start as he false-started on his first play. However, he had some good kick-out blocks in the running game. The runner ran into his back on one play though and his man leveraged his way into the pocket on one pass rush.
Kelvin Beachum looks secure in his left tackle role and he had a couple of nice run blocks but he was beaten three times around the edge, including on one of Hackenberg's interceptions. He also blocked down on one play, leaving a pass rusher unblocked off the edge for a sack. Ordinarily, you'd suspect the quarterback was at fault on such plays, but after this one, Carpenter seemed to be remonstrating with Beachum as if it was his error:
Ben Ijalana would need to make more of an impact and play more consistently to pose a challenge to Beachum's spot though. He let his man off his block to stuff one run, got beaten for a pressure off the edge and was bull rushed into the quarterback's lap once.
Dakota Dozier played the second half at guard but missed a few blocks as a run blocker and in pass protection. He was also stood up on the failed two-point conversion.
Ben Braden was the only other lineman to see any time, which is perhaps a sign that the undrafted rookie is showing promise. His performance will be remembered for the fact he rolled into Petty's knee, causing the injury, after being beaten late, but he did make a couple of good run blocks. Braden's biggest issue right now is allowing his man to shed his block at the point of attack to get in on a tackle. That happened twice.
Running Backs - Getting up off the Matt
Matt Forté and Bilal Powell each averaged over four yards per carry in an encouraging performance. Forté - making his first appearance coming off a hamstring injury - span out of a tackle to make something out of nothing on his first carry and later had a nice first down run. He was visibly frustrated when Hackenberg couldn't get the ball to him in the flat on third down though.
Powell had a good first down run in the first half, but then played into the second half where he really stood out. He took a dump-off 85 yards to the house, showing impressive breakaway speed, but even without that play he gained 57 yards on his other 10 touches.
Elijah McGuire also flashed, showing good speed after the catch on a couple of plays and moving the pile on a run up the gut. He was denied on the final two-point conversion, but it looked from the replay as if he actually broke the plane on that play.
Marcus Murphy was the only other back to get any touches, but didn't do much with his two carries up the middle.
At fullback, Julian Howsare remains the starter with Anthony Firkser still playing solely against back-ups. Both were barely used though. Howsare got beaten once in pass protection and Firkser had one good lead block.
Tight end Eric Tomlinson saw more reps than either of them in the fullback role, but if he's going to be the fullback, then who is the tight end if Jordan Leggett, Jason Vander Laan and Seferian-Jenkins are all unavailable on opening day? Perhaps a fullback will be kept on the roster for the first two games and then released when Seferian-Jenkins is reinstated for week three.
Pass catchers - Hammond Cheese
With Petty throwing the ball all over the field in the second half, several receivers battling for roles were able to make their case, led by rookies ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen.
Hansen had a spectacular sideline grab, a downfield catch for a nice gain and a two-point conversion on a fade route. He also drew a pass interference penalty and made a good block on a screen pass.
Stewart ended up with five catches, exploiting poor coverage to get open in the end zone for two touchdowns but also showing good route running to pick up a first down on the outside and then emulating Hansen's sideline grab with one of his own. He did miss a block badly on one play though.
Hansen was called for offensive pass interference on one play and there was also an illegal formation where Stewart went in motion with Hansen as the other receiver on that side and neither of them were on the line of scrimmage. On the whole, though, the progress is nice to see:
Also stepping up was Frankie Hammond, whose late falling touchdown grab gave the Jets a chance to win. Unfortunately, it might be too little, too late for Hammond, who has made a few mistakes on special teams, but he gave himself a chance with that clutch grab.
Turning now to some of the projected starters, Anderson had a quiet day with one nice catch near the marker and the pass that was jarred from his grasp for a pick-six. He also missed a couple of run blocks, but showed his deep threat potential when he blew by Eli Apple easily for what should have been a pass interference penalty. That was a travesty of a no-call.
Charone Peake is a projected opening day starter but he's been worryingly quiet so far. Peake has just one four-yard catch on two targets. Jalin Marshall is, of course, suspended for the first month, so a lack of production from him is less of an immediate concern. He had one short catch on just five snaps.
It looks like Thompkins and Chris Harper are the two most likely players to sneak into the rotation. Thompkins had a third down conversion in the flat and should've been looked for on the other third down that was pointed out earlier. Harper, who had two catches, ran a nice route for an easy third down conversion and was open for a potential touchdown but the pass was slightly underthrown and broken up.
Tight Ends - Gragg Reflex
We wrote yesterday about how the Jets need someone to step up at tight end and Chris Gragg did that to an extent with five second half catches. However, only one of these went for a first down and that was on a favorable spot.
Seferian-Jenkins contributed a first down, breaking a tackle to get to the marker, but he had another target thrown high and off his fingertips. He also missed one block.
Finally, Tomlinson had a couple of good driving blocks but was stood up on one run that was stuffed. The question also has to be asked if perhaps his route on the first pick-six wasn't angled correctly and that affected where Hackenberg (mis)placed the ball.
Check back this morning for the defensive review!