ShareThis Page
Ex-Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg shaky in AAF debut |

Ex-Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg shaky in AAF debut

Former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg did not fare well in his AAF debut.

Christian Hackenberg, a former five-star recruit and Penn State record-holder turned NFL castoff, is looking to resurrect his football career. But Sunday wasn’t much of a step forward.

Hackenberg looked shaky at best in his Alliance of American Football debut. Starting under center for the Memphis Express, one of eight teams in the new league, he completed 10 of 23 passes for 67 yards and threw an interception in a 26-0 loss to the Birmingham Iron at Legion Field. He was replaced by Troy’s Brandon Silvers with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Memphis’ offensive ineptitude wasn’t all on Hackenberg. The former Penn State quarterback, who was drafted into the new league in November, had a 39-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass negated by an illegal formation. Memphis’ receivers failed to create separation, the offensive line looked lost on delayed blitzes, and the play-calling was vanilla and predictable.

However, Hackenberg’s first-quarter interception was a poor decision: he threw it right into traffic. Hackenberg also missed high on a few passes and was late on a comeback route.

Hackenberg, when speaking to the Centre Daily Times before the AAF’s draft, said he just needs “to get out there and play ball.” Sunday was an opportunity for him to do that after a few frustrating years in the NFL.

After landing with the New York Jets in the second round in 2016, Hackenberg never took a regular-season snap. Instead, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty and Geno Smith earned starts in those two years.

In May, Hackenberg was traded by the Jets to Oakland. Raiders coach Jon Gruden thought highly of the Penn State passer in his ESPN film room show, but that previous opinion and the quarterback’s play wasn’t enough to stay on the roster. Hackenberg was waived by Oakland in June, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, completed 7 of 16 passes for 69 yards and two INTs in a preseason game against the Jets and was released the following day. Hackenberg landed on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad in September only to be cut in November.

However, Hackenberg believed entering Sunday’s game that improvement was on the way. Speaking to PennLive’s John Luciew, Hackenberg said he hasn’t “thrown the football this good ever.” Memphis Express quarterbacks coach David Lee — who previously worked with the Bills, Jets and Browns — called Hackenberg’s old motion an “elongated backward release,” causing inaccurate throws, more “severe” on short throws.

“There’s nothing wrong with him mentally,” Lee said. “It’s just a mechanical flaw. … I think he’s fixed, but we’ll get into the games and see.”

Added Hackenberg: “I wish I had this five years ago. … Now it’s just about going out and playing.”

The former Nittany Lion had his first chance in the AAF to show off that new release. He’ll be hoping for a better turn out when Memphis faces the Arizona Hotshots next Saturday.

Categories: Sports
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.