Mark Sanchez is getting the first chance to start.
Locked in a tightly contested quarterback competition with rookie Geno Smith, Sanchez got the nod on Tuesday to be under center for the New York Jets in their preseason opener Friday night at Detroit.
”Certainly, he’s the incumbent,” coach Rex Ryan said of Sanchez. ”The competition starts off and we’ll see how it goes from here, but it seemed like the natural thing to do.”
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg took it a step further, saying there was one clear factor in choosing Sanchez.
”The first thing is, he’s earned it,” he said. ”He’s had an outstanding training camp. The second thing is, he’s been the starter here and the first game would typically be his, and he’s earned it as well. Those things kind of go together.”
Smith, the team’s second-round pick, will also get some snaps with the first-team offense against the Lions, but Ryan and Mornhinweg hadn’t determined exactly how the playing time would be distributed.
”Mark, this is his game,” Mornhinweg said. ”He’ll start and go with the 1s and then we certainly would like to get Geno in just a little bit with the 1’s and then he’ll take the 2s and we’ll progress from there.”
Normally in preseason openers, starters rarely play more than two possessions. Both Ryan and Mornhinweg said there is a chance the starters could play a bit longer than usual, given the circumstances.
”We’ll put our 1s out and we’ll play it,” Ryan said. ”The preseason doesn’t end after this first preseason game. We’ll take it through as much as possible. We said this was going to be an equal competition, and it is going to be a competition and that’s exactly what it is.”
Sanchez, entering his fifth season, and Smith have been rotating practice days with the starters, usually switching up on every third day. Ryan had mentioned Monday that he could change up that rotation by having Smith work with the starters Tuesday, but instead kept Sanchez with the first-team offense.
”Really, we’ve been going every two days,” Ryan said, ”so we’ll kind of stay with that same kind of rhythm and then both guys will play in the game.”
For a second straight day, Sanchez was very solid. He was accurate, going 4 for 6 in team drills and zipping some long tosses to receivers in one-on-one drills.
Meanwhile, Smith threw his first interception this summer – working with the second-team offense – in 11-on-11 team drills, getting picked off by Ellis Lankster after going nine-plus practices, including the scrimmage, without one. He finished 2 of 5 in team drills.
”Geno had a terrific start to the camp,” Mornhinweg said. ”He has dipped just a little bit, and he has to recover. We’ll see how he rebounds.”
Ryan is eager to see how both Sanchez and Smith handle Detroit’s pass rush, especially with protecting the football a major point of emphasis this summer.
”That’ll be a good test,” Ryan said. ”No question about it.”
NOTES: Despite the Jets using CB Antonio Cromartie on kickoffs at times in practice, Ryan said that won’t happen in preseason or regular-season games unless ”you need to win a game.” As the No. 1 cornerback, Cromartie is one of the team’s most indispensable players. ”There’s no way we’re going to use Cro back there,” Ryan said. ”We’ve got some good returners.” Ryan said he’s always reminded of Jason Sehorn, a former standout defensive back for the Giants who tore his ACL and MCL in a knee while returning a kickoff in a preseason game against the Jets in 1997 and was never the same. … WR Vidal Hazelton injured his right leg, but Ryan was not sure of the severity. He got tangled up with a cornerback in drills and went down in heap before being checked out by trainers and getting help off the field. Hazelton, who spent last season on Tennessee’s practice squad, has been an early standout in camp. … TE Kellen Winslow was back on the field after getting three days of rest, but RB-KR Joe McKnight (head), WR Braylon Edwards (rest day), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) and LB Josh Mauga (back) didn’t practice. … The Jets placed WR Marcus Davis on injured reserve a day after he was waived-injured.