FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets will not go 0-for-20 in 2017. Any hope they have of not going 0-for-16 in the regular season rests in somehow repeating the formula for victory they unveiled in a 7-3 win over the Tennessee Titans in the preseason opener Saturday.
Of course, winning games in September through December with a formula used in August is much easier said than done, and an indication of just how rough a season this could be for the Jets.
But still, a team in desperate need of positives found a few Saturday, when the Jets collected eight sacks - one apiece by eight different players - and two turnovers on defense, albeit against a Titans offense that employed third-stringer Alex Tanney for all but the first two possessions.
If the Jets are to exceed expectations this season, they'll need similar weekly performance from the defense while receiving the competent, generally mistake-free play generated by the quarterbacks.
Josh McCown further improved his odds of earning the Week 1 start by leading the Jets to the game's only touchdown in his lone drive. McCown started Saturday and went 3-for-4 for 72 yards and a four-yard scoring strike to Charone Peake.
The Jets would gladly take that efficiency from McCown once the games count, especially since second-year quarterback Christian Hackenberg looked better but still not quite ready for prime time on Saturday. Hackenberg played late into the third quarter and finished 18-for-25 for 127 yards with no interceptions, though he did end his night by losing a fumbled snap, and one sack.
The Jets only moved into field-goal territory once - Chandler Catanzaro missed a 55-yard attempt in the second quarter - under the direction of Hackenberg, whose yardage was comprised entirely of throws made within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He was 0-for-3 when passing beyond 10 yards.
It's hard to envision a NFL team winning with such a piecemeal passing attack, but head coach Todd Bowles said the careful approach was done with the idea of helping Hackenberg - who was sacked more than 100 times in three seasons at Penn State and completed fewer than 40 percent of his passes in a disastrous 2016 preseason before he spent his entire rookie season on the bench - build some confidence.
"Some of it was by design," Bowles said following the game. "He was comfortable when he came out. Some of it was him being comfortable. He had some plays downfield that didn't pan out and he got rid of the ball, so he did a good job of doing that."
Hackenberg and McCown also did a good job meeting the only bottom line that matters to Bowles, who will be perfectly content with the quarterback if he's hidden all season by a defense that plays nearly perfect football.
"I judge a quarterback by wins," Bowles said Monday. "We won the game. If we scored seven and they scored six, or we scored three and they scored nothing, I'm good. They just have to take care of the football, be smart and, obviously, make some throws.
"It doesn't matter whether you win 40-0 or 7-3. It's still a win."
Notes: Running back Matt Forte (hamstring) missed Saturday's 7-3 win over the Titans as well as Monday's practice. Forte has yet to practice this summer due to the ailment. He also missed most of training camp last summer with a hamstring injury. ... Running back Bilal Powell (neck) missed Saturday's 7-3 win over the Titans as well as Monday's practice. Powell hasn't appeared on the field since Aug. 4, when head coach Todd Bowles said Powell had the wind knocked out of him during practice. The extended absence could hamper Powell's chances of distancing himself in the battle for the No. 1 running back job.