While everyone else in the Jets locker room might be eyeing the end of the season, to Bryce Petty it feels like it’s just the beginning. His second game of the season is Sunday against the Chargers at MetLife Stadium, another chance to show he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Never mind the Jets are 5-9 with no chance of making the playoffs. This game is everything to Petty.
“We’re excited about coming out energized and ready to get back out there,” he said this week.
Petty’s first start of the season, last week against the Saints, drew mixed results. With Josh McCown out for the season with a broken left hand, the Jets lost 31-19. Petty completed 19-of-39 for 179 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Offensive coordinator John Morton offered this grade: “Some good things, some bad things.”
Footwork seems to be the key area Petty needs to make improvement. He spent his college career operating out the shotgun and is still learning the timing and rhythm of making three-, five- and seven-step drops after being under center.
“A lot of that is going back to old habits,” Petty said. “It’s easy to drop back when you’re out there doing individual drills throwing with receivers. Then once you get in live action your mind is thinking about things other than footwork. You kind of lose sight of the little details.”
He said those are “very easy fixes” and have been a point of emphasis during this week of practices.
“It takes a lot of practice,” Morton said. “Being there for the game is a little different. He’ll learn from it. He’s a smart kid and he wants to please. He’s just got to play. Don’t think about everything. … Just go play.”
The Jets need to be more efficient in the red zone, where they came away with two touchdowns in four trips against the Saints. Morton, who watches film of every red-zone touchdown thrown in the NFL each year, will be looking for the perfect plays to match with Petty, whose mobility should be an asset.
“Every single year the top [scoring] pass is when the quarterback scrambles and makes a play,” Morton said. “The receiver has to know where to go based on where the quarterback scrambles. But the No. 1 deal is the scramble.”
That doesn’t mean the Jets want to turn Petty into a running quarterback. They just want him to be efficient within the offense. That only can come with experience.
“Things that are going to be on the forefront of my mind are to make sure that I get the ball in the hands of those guys that can make plays,” he said, “or put it in places to where they can makes some yards after the catch.”
Petty’s next two games are important not only to him, but also the Jets, who have to figure out their quarterback situation going into the offseason. Do they want to commit another year to McCown, who will be 39 and coming off an injury? Do they want to continue to wait for Petty and Christian Hackenberg to develop? Or do they want to turn to free agency to find a starter? Or do they draft another quarterback? Petty’s performance these next two weeks could shape those decisions.
“The whole thing last year was I was still growing in the mental process and I still am,” he said. “But we’ve made so many strides. I knew exactly where I wanted to go with the ball. I’m seeing the field, seeing the coverage and that’s very positive.”
Playing in a hostile atmosphere like the Superdome was also a learning experience.
“It was loud,” he said. “It was really loud, which was good because you conquered that mountain and now we’re on to others.”
The environment should be friendlier Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Chargers.