Sanchez to start Jets’ preseason game
Mark Sanchez has a chance to take the lead in the New York Jets’ tightly contested quarterback competition.
The team announced Thursday that Sanchez will start over rookie Geno Smith for the preseason home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night.
The decision came a day after coach Rex Ryan said Smith had a "brutal" practice in what was his "worst day" of training camp. The rookie threw four interceptions, including three in 11-on-11 team drills. Smith is also dealing with a sprained right ankle that hobbled him early in the week, although he insisted it wasn’t affecting his performance.
Ryan, who was scheduled to speak to the media later Thursday, said it was clear to him that Smith is "not 100 percent."
It was not immediately certain if Smith would play at all Saturday night. The Jets could rest him until the third preseason game next week against the Giants. Greg McElroy, also dealing with an ankle injury, and Matt Simms are the other quarterbacks on the roster.
Sanchez started the preseason opener at Detroit last Friday, in large part because he is the incumbent heading into his fifth season. He got off to a terrible start, with an interception returned for a touchdown, but rebounded with a solid performance that was capped by a TD pass to Jeff Cumberland.
Smith had no turnovers in his debut, which was cut short when he rolled the ankle on a scramble in the third quarter. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg also said this week that he didn’t get a good chance to evaluate Smith in the preseason opener because he was tinkering with several different aspects of the offense while the rookie was in.
Sanchez followed up the preseason opener with a good week of practices, while Smith was hobbled and pushed through the injury.
"I think it went about as well as it could," Sanchez said Wednesday of the competition during camp. "I felt good throughout the duration of camp. I thought I threw the ball well. I was accurate. I did my best to take care of the ball and move the team down the field. I thought we did that really well in spurts. I thought we got a little more consistent as things went on. We just have to keep improving. I felt fine with the rotation.
"Hopefully soon they’ll make a decision and we’ll roll."
Even though this is Sanchez’s second straight start in the preseason, Ryan said Wednesday that the plan against the Jaguars is not necessarily an indication of which quarterback leads in the competition. But, if Sanchez plays well and Smith doesn’t take any snaps, it would appear the veteran would have the edge.
Smith, who was cleared by team trainers early in the week, had not missed any time on the field. He worked mostly with the first-team offense Wednesday and appeared to move around with only a slight limp at times.
"I haven’t really been trying to use it as an excuse," Smith said. "I’ve been going out there and giving it my all, and I think I’ve done a good job of just pushing through this week."
The Jets break camp at SUNY Cortland on Thursday.