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Lichtenstein: Jets’ Preseason Victory Doesn’t Change Their Dismal Outlook

Here's Your Annual Reminder That It's A Waste Of Time To Look For Meaning In Meaningless Games

By Steve Lichtenstein
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Football fans have been starved for live action for so long that it’s no wonder some have forgotten an important NFL axiom.

Preseason games do not matter.

I repeat: Preseason games do not matter.

Christian Hackenberg

Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) passes against Tennessee Titans on Aug. 12, 2017, at MetLife Stadium. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Projected by every sane analyst to bring up the rear in the AFC this year, the Jets won their first exhibition, 7-3, over the Titans at MetLife Stadium on Saturday.

Lo and behold, I feel bombarded from all the reviews, some positively glowing, about how the Jets just might not be that bad. As if they defied logic by not losing to the Titans’ backups by 45 points.

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My friend Chris was actually excited about the result. He texted me links to articles on quarterback Josh McCown’s cheerleading and wide receiver Robby Anderson’s “breakout” potential.

Because, you know, the Jets scored a touchdown on their opening drive.

I tried to settle Chris down, but he didn’t want to hear my argument that if Robert Kraft isn’t losing any sleep over the Patriots’ loss to the Jaguars, then maybe these games aren’t that important.

The funniest media bits were the leaps to suddenly elevate Christian Hackenberg into a legitimate NFL quarterback prospect.

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Hackenberg completed 18 of his 25 throws for 127 yards Saturday. That’s just 7 yards per completion, folks.

Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reported that 14 of the 18 completions were caught within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, and all three of Hackenberg’s throws over 10 yards fell incomplete. But, hey, he wasn’t intercepted (and his lost fumble on a botched snap might not have been his fault).

I read more than one piece that deemed Hackenberg’s performance an improvement because he often had trouble going 18-of-25 against air in practice.

Really? Is this where we are? Hackenberg isn’t an 8-year old. He’s a professional, one that was selected in the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft. He should be able to complete the vast majority of 3-yard swing passes.

The Titans were playing mostly vanilla defenses such as soft zones, making those plays very safe. Do you think regular season opponents aren’t going to press the Jets’ inexperienced receivers at the line of scrimmage to make those timing patterns quite a bit more difficult?

Oh, and let’s not forget that for all of these supposed positives you want to take from this game, the Jets did not score a single point after McCown’s 5-yard touchdown toss to Charone Peake five minutes into the first quarter.

As for the Jets’ defense, the starters played two series, which, again, is not enough of a sample or even a fair representative of typical regular season activity (Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was seeing his first competitive action since breaking his leg last December) for any sort of extrapolation.

Yes, the defense did seem to be playing faster, but it remains to be seen whether it will be materially better. Rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were called on to make one play (a Maye tackle) between them as Mariota did not feel the need to test their lack of NFL game experience.

There really isn’t any need (other than NFL owners’ greed) to play these games at all. Several coaches have commented that their programs get more out of scrimmages and joint practices than from these exhibitions designed to squeeze more money out of fans and TV networks.

The Jets can go 4-0 this preseason, and it wouldn’t change my expectations one iota. Every year I need to remind you about the time Gang Green went 5-0 behind another quarterback chosen in the second round a year earlier.

In 1992, Browning Nagle and the Jets finished 4-12.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1

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