The New York Jets are embroiled in one of the more intriguing back-up quarterback battles in the NFL as they prep to face the Washington Redskins in Week 2 of the preseason Friday night at FedEx Field.
Even after months of stale contract talks and an eventual agreement, Ryan Fitzpatrick will serve as opening day starter and presumably the entire 2016 season, but whether Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, or rookie Christian Hackenberg serve as his immediate back-up on the depth chart will likely be decided over the next two games.
Before meeting the Redskins, it appears Petty and Smith are in major contention for the No. 2 spot with Hackenberg potentially seeing his first NFL action on Friday. Petty and Smith each tossed 14 passes, with the latter completing one more than the former and tossing a touchdown, in the Jets 17-13 victory over Jacksonville last week. Petty threw for more yards but was also sacked twice, and Smith posted a 97.0 passer rating.
But second-round pick and former Penn State starter Hackenberg may have the chance to stick his foot in the race. Head coach Todd Bowles told NJ.com that the plan is for Hackenberg to play and the team has also stepped his number reps over the last week.
New York will also get a better look at the progression of its rookies and younger players at the skill positions on defense. Second-year receiver Quincy Enunwa, who totaled 69 yards off two receptions last week, has played well while undrafted rookie Jalin Marshall should look for more snaps after one catch for 10 yards against the Jaguars.
On defense, first-round pick and outside linebacker Darron Lee and third-round selection Jordan Jenkins, who was moved up to first-string on the depth chart, could further cement their positions. Lee racked up four tackles, including two for a loss, as well as a sack last week and Jenkins had three solo tackles.
Meanwhile, the Redskins should see the return of wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who sat out the preseason opening 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons with a hamstring injury. However, left tackle Trent Williams may sit out again due to a knee injury, head coach Jay Gruden told the team’s official site.
“We’re taking it slow with him, too,” Gruden said. “He wants to be out there really bad, but we’re holding him back a little bit. But I think he’ll be very close to being ready.”
Washington also missed starting tight end Jordan Reed (knee), who’s coming off the best and healthiest season of his career, but the Redskins offense will need to see major signs of life from its first-string rushing unit. Even though that may prove difficult against a Jets rushing defense that ranked second in the league in 2015.
Starter Matt Jones and second-stringer Chris Thompson together accounted for one rushing yard on three attempts versus Atlanta, while third-stringer Mack Brown and his back-up and rookie Robert Kelly combined for 68 yards and a touchdown off 14 attempts.
Gruden also told the Washington Post Thursday that the Redskins are taking things slow with first-round pick and receiver Josh Doctson, who’s battling an Achilles tendon injury in his right foot. He’s not expected to play against New York and may have be out the rest of the preseason.
"I don't have any expectations for him whatsoever," Gruden said "I'm just trying to listen to what the trainers are telling me and how he's feeling. I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see. He's going to progress slowly, and we'll take our time with him. When he feels right and the time is right, we'll push him hard and let him practice."
Doctson’s plight may help several receivers improve their standing on the depth chart or shot at the 53-man roster. Fourth-year wide out and journeyman Rashad Ross, who’s in his second stint with the Redskins after stops in Tennessee, Kansas City and Chicago, led Washington with four receptions for 49 yards.
Start Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channels: CBS 2 (New York); CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington)
Live Stream: A live stream is available at NFL Game Pass