All about Rex, Sanchez & Smith for Jets in 2013

The big question for the New York Jets heading into training

camp was simple.

Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith?

With the regular season closing in, the Jets are still looking

for the answer.

Sanchez is dealing with a banged-up right shoulder that could

keep him sidelined a few weeks. Smith, meanwhile, showed he might

not be ready to start immediately as a rookie after a dismal,

turnover-filled preseason performance against the Giants.

”We said from Day 1 that there was no timetable on us

announcing a starting quarterback,” coach Rex Ryan said.

But the fact the Jets have gone several weeks into a competition

that has produced no clarity doesn’t bode well for a team that

could be hard-pressed to match its six-win total from a year ago.

It could also be taking so long because Ryan knows the decision

could directly affect his future with the team. Pick the wrong

quarterback and the season could get ugly in a hurry.

Especially with the regular-season opener against Tampa Bay on

Sept. 8 coming up quickly.

”It’s a competition and the best man for the team will get the

job,” Smith said. ”It hasn’t been decided yet, so we’re still in

the evaluation process.”

With that said, here are five things to look for as the Jets

prepare for the start of the season:

2 QBS OR NO QB?: There appeared to be a breakthrough in the

quarterback competition last Saturday night when Smith, getting his

first NFL start, struggled against the Giants’ starting defense.

The second-round pick had been running just about even with Sanchez

until that point. So, most would have assumed Sanchez was in

position for his fifth straight opening-week start. Well, not so

fast. Ryan decided to play Sanchez in garbage time against the

Giants, and Sanchez injured his shoulder – casting doubt on whether

he’ll even be ready to play in the opener. That means the Jets

could be looking at a raw, inexperienced rookie under center

against Tampa Bay. ”They’re going to make the decision when they

feel the time’s right,” Smith said. ”So, it’s my job to keep

competing and keep going out there and work hard in practice.”

VEXED REX: When owner Woody Johnson announced in January that he

was retaining Ryan as coach after firing GM Mike Tannenbaum, some

wondered why the Jets wouldn’t just start from scratch in all

areas. Johnson insisted Ryan was the right person to lead the

franchise, and Ryan said he was treating his second chance as if it

were his first day on the job. It has been a different Ryan –

thinner, quieter, less entertaining – than the Ryan who came to the

franchise in 2009. New GM John Idzik has also installed a new more

buttoned-up approach that has many wondering if he and Ryan will be

able to mesh. From the quarterback decision to day-to-day matters,

it will all factor in if Ryan remains beyond this year or if Idzik

goes in another direction. ”With John and I, we’re side by side

and on every decision that goes into it,” Ryan said. ”Who plays,

who’s making the team, all those types of things, we’re side by

side with each other.”

DEE-LITE: It seemed inconceivable not long ago that the Jets

would ever part ways with Darrelle Revis, a shutdown cornerback who

was the team’s best player since Curtis Martin. But, sensing a

contract would never get done that satisfied both sides, Idzik

traded Revis to Tampa Bay a few days before the draft. Then, with

their first pick – No. 9 overall – the Jets selected Alabama star

cornerback Dee Milliner. While Antonio Cromartie is charged with

replacing Revis as the team’s No. 1 cornerback, Milliner is being

counted on to start immediately and help offset the loss of Revis,

as long as he’s healthy. He was sidelined in the offseason while

recovering from shoulder surgery and missed time in the preseason

with a sore calf.

PLAYMAKERS: No matter who the quarterback is, Marty Mornhinweg’s

offense lacks game-changing players that opposing defensive

coordinators will lose sleep over. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley is a

nice player with sure hands and a solid slot presence, but the

receiving corps is relatively thin – especially if Stephen Hill

isn’t over his problems with drops and Santonio Holmes isn’t fully

healed from a foot injury that sidelined him since Week 4 of last

season. The Jets are hoping the speedy and powerful Chris Ivory

emerges as a legitimate No. 1 back after being buried on the depth

chart in New Orleans. Jeff Cumberland has been called ”a complete

tight end” by Ryan and could be a red-zone threat, but is still

inexperienced.

DOMINANT DEFENSE?: Ryan proclaimed that the Jets will have a

top-5 caliber defense, and he might be right because of a nice mix

of youth, speed and athleticism. That’s even with seven projected

new starters. It also is expected to be the overwhelming strength

of the team. And, it better be, just to keep the Jets in ballgames.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is a rising star and Sheldon

Richardson a promising rookie, but losing linebacker Quinton Coples

to an ankle injury for an undetermined amount of time is a big

blow. Linebacker David Harris needs a bounce-back year, and

second-year linebacker Demario Davis must provide the playmaking

ability Bart Scott once did. ”I am out of the prediction

business,” Ryan said, ”but I know where I believe everything is

going to end up.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org