Jets QB Bryce Petty, no longer a naive rookie, ready for his 'big' audition

Bryce Petty will be on the big stage Thursday against the Eagles. Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Petty has learned a lot about the NFL in one year. He now understands that, baby, it can be cold inside.

"I felt like last year, it was like, 'Hey, this is the NFL, everything is new.' I was bright-eyed," Petty said this week. "This year, it's like: Boom, this is the business part of it."

When the New York Jets drafted Christian Hackenberg in April, it was a boom moment for Petty, whose roster spot no longer was a gimme. Here we are, four months later, and he's still battling to secure a spot.

The Jets close the preseason Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, and Petty -- the likely starter -- is playing for huge stakes.

Petty could be playing to make the team or he could be playing to overtake Geno Smith as the No. 2 quarterback. The quarterback depth chart is so muddled -- in part because of mixed signals from the Jets -- that it's hard to decipher. It's a fluid situation, one that will be impacted by Petty's performance, other positions on the roster and trade possibilities (see: Smith, Geno).

Petty is approaching the game as if he's still trying to make the 53-man roster, which is the right mindset.

"I think this game will be big," he said.

Petty and Hackenberg will share the reps in Philadelphia. Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick won't play, according to coach Todd Bowles. Only two are guaranteed roster spots -- Fitzpatrick and Hackenberg. I'm still not 100 percent convinced that Smith will be on the opening-day roster.

Petty remains on edge, not knowing.

"I think it's been that way the whole camp, the whole preseason," he said. "I haven't been told anything. I don't read anything. All I have to go off every day is what I see here (at practice). It's been limited reps since Day 1, so it's been that feeling the whole time."

Actually, Petty has more preseason game reps (77) than Smith (47), Hackenberg (23) and even Fitzpatrick (51). The former Baylor star has had one good game, one bad game and one middling game. He's had 16 possessions, including seven punts, three touchdowns and two turnovers.

His numbers aren't great (56-percent completion rate, six sacks, two touchdowns, one interception), but he has made strides from last year. His pocket presence has improved and he sees the field better than his rookie season but still has rough edges. With no regular-season experience, he'd be risky as the No. 2.

"You want to come in here every day and show they made the right choice in last year's draft, and there's a reason to keep me," said Petty, a fourth-round pick.

"Wherever I end up, whether it's here -- where I want to be -- or somewhere else, I know something good will come out of it," he said.

The stage belongs to him.