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Bryce Petty and New York Jets fans can breathe easy

Bryce Petty and the New York Jets exhaled today when they found out his knee injury was a Grade 1 medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain and nothing more serious than that.

The Jets especially celebrated because it meant Petty will be ready for opening day, September 10 against the Buffalo Bills, and Gang Green won’t be forced to make Christian Hackenberg the primary backup to presumed starter Josh McCown.

Head coach Todd Bowles said he’ll make the official announcement on Monday, but it’s apparent that McCown will be the starter. Jets’ Twitter seemingly wants Petty as the starter, but at the very least it won’t be Hackenberg. Petty had to solidify his place as McCown’s backup with Saturday night’s performance against the co-tenant New York Giants.

The former Baylor University star performed amazingly with the Jets’ second-stringers in the second half of Gang Green’s 32-31 loss to Big Blue. Hackenberg was an abomination in getting the start, as Petty inherited a 26-point deficit by the time he stepped on the field. But he was able to engineer three touchdown drives, before bowing out with his knee injury. Petty went 15-of-18, for 250 yards, and the three touchdowns, while Hackenberg tallied a line of 8-of-15 for 60 yards, and two interceptions – both returned for touchdowns. The former Pennsylvania State University star was given eight drives to move the ball, but could only muster 4.1 yards per attempt and ended with a 23.6 passer rating. Petty, conversely, ended with a perfect rating of 158.3.

Hackenberg dug the Jets an early grave with his first three drives: a three-and-out, a safety, and then his first of two pick-sixes. If this was the National Basketball Association, Hackenberg’s plus-minus would be atrocious, as he’s led the Jets’ offense to minus-13 points — two pick-sixes, a safety, and a field goal.

So far this preseason, Hackenberg has played himself out of the starting job – and maybe the primary backup job as well. He is 32-of-53 for 267 yards (5.1 yards per attempt), with one touchdown, two picks, and six sacks. His five-game preseason career displays a stat line of 45-of-93, with 360 yards (3.8 yards per attempt), one touchdown, four interceptions, one lost fumble, and just 10 points generated.

Meanwhile, Petty became the first Jets quarterback to throw three touchdowns in a preseason game versus the Giants since Ray Lucas did it in the 2000 game.

Thankfully, Petty’s initial fears were quelled, as he noted that he “hopes to play” in the Jets’ preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday night. Initially Petty said the knee “felt weird … felt loose.” That didn’t sound good, but Jets’ Nation can now breathe easy.

Jets’ fans, however, won’t breathe easy if Bowles continues his stubbornness of giving Hackenberg extended reps in game action – and especially if he names the neophyte as McCown’s primary backup. General manager Mike Maccagnan’s pet project, and seemingly wasted second-round pick, likely needs another “redshirt” season – unless the plan is to play the over-his-head Hackenberg in the regular season, so the Jets can lock up the No. 1 pick in next year’s National Football League Draft.

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