- Associated Press - Thursday, December 21, 2017

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - The numbers were far from pretty, and some of the tape wasn’t much better.

But Bryce Petty saw positives in his first start of the season as the New York Jets‘ quarterback. And so did offensive coordinator John Morton.

Now, it’s all about progress as Petty prepares to face the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

“There was some good and there were things he needs to work on, but I thought he did a good job with the checks and things like that as far as run and pass and things,” Morton said Thursday. “Obviously, watching the film, there (are) things he has to work on and get better with, and he will.”

Petty, filling in for the injured Josh McCown, went 19 of 39 for 179 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in New York’s 31-19 loss at New Orleans.

The third-year quarterback struggled to connect with receivers at times, and not unexpectedly since McCown had taken just about all the first-team practice snaps all season.

The offense failed to capitalize on the Saints’ three turnovers , getting just a field goal out of them.

“There’s a lot of good things to take away from that game,” Petty said Wednesday. “We moved the ball well at times. We have to do better in the red zone. We have to score points, especially when our defense gets three turnovers against that group. Like I said after the game, we have to score and make those field goals touchdowns. A lot of that is on me, just knowing and being aware of situations and being able to execute.

“Other than that, I felt really good. I felt really confident.”

The Jets appeared to play mostly conservative for much of the game with just two plays of 20 yards or more: a 38-yard pass to running back Elijah McGuire in the third quarter and a 24-yarder to receiver Chad Hansen in the fourth quarter.

“There were a couple of chances we could have had, but it just didn’t go that way,” Morton said of not taking many vertical shots. “I really thought we could run the ball, and we were pretty good running the ball. As far as getting the ball down the field, I probably need to have a couple more opportunities to see if we can make a play down the field, there’s no doubt about that.”

Petty will face another big test against the Chargers, whose pass defense is ranked fourth in the NFL. Their 38 sacks are tied for seventh-most in the league, with Joey Bosa (11½) and Melvin Ingram (10) leading the way.

“They have great edge rushers up front, which will present our guys a challenge, which they always rise to the occasion,” Petty said. “So I’m excited about seeing them on Sunday against those guys. Again, it’s another chance and another opportunity for us to go out and prove what we’ve done in preparation for the week, so (we’re) excited about it.”

This will mark Petty’s sixth career NFL start and the latest opportunity for the 2015 fourth-round pick out of Baylor to show the Jets that he could be the future of the franchise under center.

Second-year quarterback Christian Hackenberg is not expected to see any regular-season action this year, so Petty will likely get the start at New England in the finale on Dec. 31.

While the Jets are expected to target a quarterback in the draft with their first-round pick in April - or in free agency - Petty could leave a positive impression during these final two games.

“He’s a smart kid and he wants to please and he wants to do well and he’s been really working on that the last few days (putting in) extra time,” Morton said, adding that quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates has been working extensively with Petty.

“He just has to go play,” Morton added. “Don’t think about everything, just go play.”

Rushed throws and footwork issues have been two of the areas Petty has tried to improve in the past several days - a continuation of the progress he has made since making his first four NFL starts late last season.

“That’s the process of it, the growing and understanding,” Petty said. “I think that from last year, those four starts that I had, to this year, I felt so much more calm and relaxed going into this game just because I knew what to expect and what was expected of me.

“But I think also just with preparation of game plan and things like that, I was really confident with my play and understanding on each play what was expected of me, so that’ll continue to grow as I get better and keep getting in there.”

NOTES: DE Muhammad Wilkerson practiced for the second straight day after being benched Sunday. Coach Todd Bowles said Wilkerson’s playing status against the Chargers remains undetermined. … McGuire (illness), RB Matt Forte (knee) and RG Brian Winters (abdomen) did not practice. DE Leonard Williams (concussion), CB Morris Claiborne (foot) and C Wesley Johnson (hip) were all limited.


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