At just 23, Christian Hackenberg already has been slapped with the “bust” label by some NFL analysts. The former Penn State quarterback, taken in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft by the New York Jets, has yet to play a single snap as a pro.
Hackenberg went into this week buried on the Jets depth chart behind the likes of this year’s Round 1 pick Sam Darnold, former Vikings standout Teddy Bridgewater and journeyman Josh McCown.
But on Tuesday, Hackenberg was traded by the Jets to the Raiders for a conditional seventh-round choice in next year’s draft. Suddenly, he has a chance to get a fresh start.
“Some players, it takes a while for them to get going,” said Jets coach Todd Bowles to reporters Tuesday. “We did everything we could to try to help (him) as best we could. Sometimes it just works out somewhere else.”
There’s some sense the 6-foot-4, 228-pounder will be well positioned in Oakland to get a second life.
New Raiders coach Jon Gruden was a fan of Hackenberg when he played for the Nittany Lions. The QB will now compete for a roster spot against Connor Cook and EJ Manuel to back up starter Derek Carr. Cook, a fourth-round pick out of Michigan State in the same draft that produced Hackenberg, could be most vulnerable as a young player brought in before Gruden’s arrival. Cook was the No. 3 QB in 2017 behind Manuel, the veteran and former Bills starter who played in three games for the Raiders in 2017.
Hackenberg was a three-year starter for Penn State, throwing for 8,457 yards while completing 56.1 percent of his passes for 48 touchdowns and 31 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 123.9. Over four preseason games last year with New York, Hackenberg completed 42 of 74 throws (56.8 percent) for 372 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. In 2016 he appeared in two summer games, completing 17 of 47 passes (36.2 percent) for 159 yards, one TD and two interceptions.
Hackenberg now comes to the Raiders after an offseason spent working on his mechanics. Frustrated after last season, Hackenberg spent the past couple of months working with a personal quarterback coach, Jeff Christensen, at the recommendation of former Jets QBs coach David Lee, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post. Hackenberg says he’s shortened his throwing motion and eliminated some bad habits.
“For the first time in a long time, right now, I feel that I have a solid foundation from a fundamental standpoint,” Hackenberg told Costello. Hackenberg believes “it’s only going to keep on getting better and better” and is excited about putting his new techniques into action.
He said his situation with the Jets was out of his control – he didn’t get a single rep in Jets organized team activities (OTAs) this week, as Darnold, Bridgewater and McCown saw plenty of work. But Hackenberg believes in himself.
“All I know is I’m 23 and I have a lot of ball ahead of me,” Hackenberg told the Post. “Hell, my career hasn’t even started yet.”