NFL Preseason Blitz: Christian Hackenberg throws a pair of pick-sixes

Shutdown Corner

The New York Jets keep trying, but Christian Hackenberg still doesn’t look like an NFL starting quarterback. He doesn’t look like an NFL backup quarterback either.

The Jets gave Hackenberg another start on Saturday against the New York Giants, even after Hackenberg led the team to minus-3 yards passing in the first half against the Detroit Lions last week. Hackenberg hasn’t shown anything, but he was a 2016 second-round pick. The Jets aren’t going anywhere this season, and they want to figure out if Hackenberg can play.

By this point, the Jets should have their answer.

Amazingly enough, Hackenberg looked even worse in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game than he did last week. On his first series he took a sack and had a pass batted down at the line. Later, he telegraphed a pass that safety Landon Collins easily picked off and returned for a touchdown. Throw in a safety on a run play and the Jets offense was outscored by the Giants defense 9-0 in the first quarter. Hackenberg completed 1-of-4 passes for minus-1 yards in the opening quarter. In that first quarter, the Jets had minus-10 net passing yards and trailed 19-0. Words don’t do justice to how ugly it was.

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Then in the second quarter, Hackenberg threw a second pick-six. The second one wasn’t entirely Hackenberg’s fault, as Robby Anderson was hit hard by cornerback Janoris Jenkins right after the pass arrived and it was intercepted by Donte Deayon and returned for a touchdown. The pass was a little late and high, but it probably shouldn’t have been a pick-six.

Christian Hackenberg struggled again in Saturday’s preseason game. (AP)
Christian Hackenberg struggled again in Saturday’s preseason game. (AP)

Bryce Petty actually did some good things in relief of Hackenberg, with 250 yards and three touchdowns. But, in 2017 Jets fashion, he injured his knee and left the game. Coach Todd Bowles told reporters after the game Petty will get an MRI on Sunday. Hackenberg had to come back in after Petty was knocked out and actually threw a touchdown, which made his day seem a little better. He rallied a little bit in the second quarter too, despite the second pick-six, and finished 12 of 21 for 126 yards in a 32-31 loss.

Presumably, the Jets assume veteran Josh McCown will be ready to start the regular season without much preseason work. If the Jets keep with the Hackenberg charade and start him in the regular season, their offense could be historically bad.

The New York Giants’ defense has been pretty good this preseason. The offense? Nope.

There were a few signs of a revival from the Giants offense on Saturday night, though it was hard to tell if that was just due to the Jets’ incompetence. The Giants’ defense was great again too, though it was hard to tell if that was just due to the Jets’ incompetence.

The Giants offense, which hadn’t scored a touchdown in two preseason games, started with a big mistake. Right guard John Jerry was beaten badly by Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, forcing Eli Manning to throw a terrible pass that was intercepted. Jerry was benched after that. The Giants’ poor offensive line could derail their season, and many of its problems haven’t been fixed.

Most of the rest of the night went better for the offense, which was without receivers Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall. Tight end Evan Engram, the team’s first-round pick, had 32 yards on a pair of catches. Manning went 7 of 14 for 121 yards. The Giants finally scored that offensive touchdown late in the first quarter on an Orleans Darkwa run. Not everything appeared to be fixed, but at least there were positive steps.

The Giants’ offense doesn’t need to be great, because the defense is dominant. Jason Pierre-Paul played very well, batting down a pass on the Jets’ first series and shortly after that he made a great move to penetrate and drop Matt Forte in the end zone for a safety. Pierre-Paul had a sack, too. The Giants returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including one from All-Pro safety Landon Collins.

The Giants’ defense will be fantastic and already looks ready for the season. We’ll see soon if the offense can do its part.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians probably won’t be questioning receiver John Brown after Brown’s performance Saturday night.

Arians was critical of Brown early last week after Brown was slow to recover from a quad injury. If that was meant to motivate Brown, it worked well. Brown made two fantastic touchdown catches in a 24-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

On the first, Brown beat the cornerback and Carson Palmer made a nice throw to him in the end zone before safety Ricardo Allen could get to him. Brown emphatically spiked the ball after that.

Brown’s second touchdown was phenomenal. Against tight coverage, Brown made a great over-the-shoulder catch on a nice throw from Drew Stanton for the score.

Brown is one of the better big-play receivers in the NFL when he’s healthy. He wasn’t healthy most of last season, and his health issues this month were concerning. They were probably concerning to Arians too, which is why he criticized Brown. The Cardinals need someone other than David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald to make plays in the offense. Brown showed Saturday he’s back and capable of being another nice weapon for Arizona.

Baltimore Ravens 13, Buffalo Bills 9: Rookie quarterback Nate Peterman has generated a lot of buzz, but that quieted a bit on Saturday night. Peterman came in for Tyrod Taylor, who suffered a concussion, and completed 11-of-23 passes for 93 yards. It won’t give the Bills increased confidence if Taylor’s concussion puts his Week 1 status in doubt.

Indianapolis Colts 19, Pittsburgh Steelers 15: There were at least a few positive signs for the Colts offense without Andrew Luck. Scott Tolzien, who will start at quarterback as long as Luck is out, was 7 of 10 for 123 yards. Most of his yards came on a 55-yard catch-and-run by Donte Moncrief, which is much more than the Colts’ starting offense produced the first two preseason games. Tolzien also threw an interception to Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier. The Colts will have a tough time scoring points as long as Luck is out.

Cleveland Browns 13, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9: Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer probably did enough to win the starting job (read about his night here) and another positive sign was second-year receiver Corey Coleman’s game. Coleman, a first-round pick last season who made some plays as a rookie before injuries set him back, had four catches for 66 yards. The Browns need some of their many draft picks the past two years to develop, and Coleman is a huge piece in their building project.

Dallas Cowboys 24, Oakland Raiders 20: Ezekiel Elliott played one series for the Cowboys, and they used him a lot. He had six carries for 18 yards, and two catches (including a nice one-handed catch) for 6 yards. He looked sharp, with his usual good vision and hard running. His numbers were brought down a bit because he was stuffed in the backfield right away on two runs. Unless his appeal wins or he takes the matter to court (or if the Cowboys decide to play him in the preseason finale for whatever reason), the next time we’ll see Elliott will be Week 8 of the regular season.

Los Angeles Chargers 21, Los Angeles Rams 19: Joey Bosa made a play that should get Chargers fans excited. Bosa beat right tackle Rob Havenstein on a nice outside rush, strip-sacked Rams quarterback Jared Goff (for more on Goff’s tough night, read here) and teammate Melvin Ingram scooped the fumble up and returned it for a touchdown. Last season Bosa got off to a little bit of a slow start after a preseason holdout. That won’t be the case this season.

New Orleans Saints 13, Houston Texans 0: There were two weird sightings in New Orleans: Adrian Peterson in a Saints uniform, and Peterson playing in the preseason. Peterson hadn’t touched the ball in the preseason since 2011, but he was on the field for the Saints. He didn’t do much, with 15 yards on six carries with a long gain of 3 yards, and he lost a yard on his only reception. That’s probably no sign of what’s to come in the regular season for the all-time great back.

Denver Broncos 20, Green Bay Packers 17: Jamaal Charles made his Broncos debut against the Packers and he looked good. His first run looked like many others throughout his career, as he bounced a handoff outside and battled for 7 yards. Charles had 27 rushing yards on four carries and had 15 yards on two catches. Charles is on Denver’s roster bubble and might have needed a nice performance Saturday night to secure a job. On the Broncos’ broadcast, coach Vance Joseph said at halftime that Charles looked explosive, caught the ball well, was good in pass protection and he was pleased with Charles’ performance.

• It’s rare to see teammates have physical confrontations on the field … unless Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib is involved. Talib was trying to break up a fight between Broncos linebacker Todd Davis and some members of the Packers when Talib and Davis started getting into it. Davis jabbed Talib in the chest with his helmet, and Davis needed to be calmed down on the sideline.

“Ah man, just a heated play and I was calming him down,” Talib said with a smile during an in-game interview on the Broncos broadcast. “He was hot on the field and I was calming him down. No smoke … we good.”

Talib shoved Broncos punt returner Jordan Norwood after Norwood fumbled during a game last season.

• The Texans offense didn’t show anything against a Saints defense that has been among the worst in the NFL. New Orleans shut out Houston. Starting quarterback Tom Savage had just 79 yards on 16 attempts. Rookie Deshaun Watson was 11 of 21 for 116 yards and an interception. Houston’s defense played well, and should be find this season, but the Texans will need a lot more from the offense.

• Cowboys tight end Jason Witten keeps going strong. The 35-year-old caught six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. On the flip side of that, it’s not a great sign for a Raiders defense that struggled to cover anyone last season.

• Saturday night was the first game at the Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. While the Falcons didn’t play well in the preseason debut at the new stadium, it looked great on television. The stadium has drawn rave reviews and should be one of the NFL’s best venues.

• On Friday night, Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware went down with a knee injury. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Ware has damage to his PCL and LCL and will miss time, though a specific timeframe isn’t clear. Rookie Kareem Hunt was already getting momentum, and now he’ll have a decent amount of time to establish himself as the Chiefs’ featured back.

• The New England Patriots, who lost receiver Julian Edelman to an ACL injury suffered Friday night, made a somewhat surprising move to cut defensive end Kony Ealy on Saturday. The Patriots traded a second-round pick to the Panthers for Ealy and a third-round pick, but coach Bill Belichick said he didn’t think Ealy fit the scheme well.

• Packers running back Ty Montgomery didn’t get much playing time but he had a really nice 25-yard run. Montgomery had just three carries for 31 yards, but he’s set to start the season as the Packers starting tailback.

• Cordarrelle Patterson seems to be fitting in pretty well with the Raiders. The former Minnesota Vikings first-round pick signed with the Raiders in the offseason, and he caught a 17-yard touchdown on a very nice pass from Derek Carr. Patterson, who never quite made an impact as a receiver with the Vikings (he is an excellent kickoff returner though), caught four passes for 30 yards and might be a decent option to go with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

• Here’s one more reason for the Browns to be excited about their young core: Safety Jabrill Peppers grabbed his first interception this preseason. He was in position to pick off an overthrown ball from Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. His versatility should make him a key piece of the Browns defense from Week 1 of his rookie season on.

• Trevor Siemian, named Broncos starting quarterback this week, didn’t start Saturday’s game with a bang. He overthrew Demaryius Thomas badly on a pass that was picked off. Siemian settled in well after that, completing 13-of-22 passes for 127 yards. Paxton Lynch, who lost the competition to Siemian, left with what the Broncos said was a right shoulder injury after he was hit low, upended and landed awkwardly.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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