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Lichtenstein: Makes No Sense For Jets To Carry 4 QBs On 53-Man Roster

By Steve Lichtenstein
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Entering his second season as an NFL head coach, Todd Bowles has the whole lying to the media thing down pat.

Bowles told a few whoppers as it relates to his Jets' depth chart at quarterback following the 17-13 victory over visiting Jacksonville in the preseason opener on Thursday.

Let's set the record straight: It would be ridiculous for the Jets to carry four signal-callers on their 53-man roster when the games begin to count.

There's barely enough reps to get all four work now, let alone in three weeks when game preparation trumps development.

Rookie Christian Hackenberg couldn't even get on the field on Thursday, with Bowles telling the media that it would have been "a disservice" to the second-round pick out of Penn State to throw him into a real game with limited practice time.

What? He couldn't have handed off a couple of times and thrown a safe, short pass on third down in a meaningless exhibition against at-best third-stringers? I guess all the other coaches in the league who played rookies in the first preseason game were also doing more harm than good.

We all agree that Ryan Fitzpatrick is firmly in control of the starting job and that Hackenberg, by virtue of being general manager Mike Maccagnan's guy in the draft, will make it through the final cut.

That leaves Geno Smith and Bryce Petty to battle it out for the role of Fitzpatrick's understudy, even if Bowles asserted on Saturday that no such battle exists.

Bowles told Rich Cimini of, "Geno is the number two right now. We're not making a competition after one preseason game."

That's odd, considering it's standard coach-speak to state that everything is a competition in this game.

As it should be.

Conventional wisdom is that it would be suicide for the Jets to ditch Smith and leave inexperienced backups to step in if something dreadful happens to 33-year-old Fitzpatrick.

Jets QB Bryce Petty
The Jets' Bryce Petty in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 11, 2016. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Yes, it's true that Smith is the only other quarterback on the roster who has won NFL games. But it's also true that he's lost quite a bit more.

While there are legions of Jets fans who can't even stomach the sight of Smith on the field, I'm not suggesting that he should automatically be the one excised.

Per, Smith carries a relatively palatable $1.6 salary cap charge in the final season of his rookie contract. While his release would create nearly $1.1 million in cap space, it would also add a little over $500,000 in dead money in 2017.

Petty, the Jets' fourth-round draft pick a year ago, still has to prove that he can adapt to the NFL game. He's 25 years old (the same age as Smith), not 21, so let's not pretend he has a lot of time to do it.

However, we also can't immediately dismiss the possibility that Petty has enough game to make Smith expendable.

The Jaguars game didn't shed any new light on the matter. Both quarterbacks had their ups and downs, making some plays and missing some throws. Neither turned the ball over, which has been Smith's Achilles' heel since he was drafted in the second round in 2013.

All I'm saying is that we need to see more and one of them has to go before the regular season opener against the Bengals on Sept. 11.

For what it's worth, Bowles, per reports, gave Petty second-team reps at Sunday's practice, which caused Smith to tweet his annoyance with the media.

The bottom line is that the Jets shouldn't waste roster spots on two quarterbacks who they have no intention of playing. Only one can be designated as the emergency quarterback each week. The other would be inactive -- the easiest job in America. He wouldn't even have to hold a clipboard.

At first glance, it appears that the Jets have finally infused their depth chart with some quality young players. Some difficult decisions will have to be made in certain position groups. Wide receiver, for example, currently stands out.

To cut someone who could possibly be of use this season makes no sense.

In a perfect world, some team in need of quarterback depth (the Giants?) would look to make a trade. Unfortunately, I doubt whether Smith or Petty would fetch even a low draft pick given Smith's history, including the locker room fight during last year's training camp that resulted in a broken jaw, and Petty's blank NFL resume.

Besides, the Jets haven't lived in a perfect world for nearly half a century.

Follow Steve on Twitter at @SteveLichtenst1

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