Most NFL teams who have a quarterback battle in training camp like to formally announce their starter after the second week of the preseason at the latest. For the New York Jets, all signs were beginning to point to Mark Sanchez retaining his role as the leader of the Jets offense, however an up and down performance while rookie challenger Geno Smith sat out due to injury allows the battle to rage on into week three.
In the team’s first preseason game against the Detroit Lions, Mark Sanchez looked to be the better option for Gang Green this season. Rookie Geno Smith struggled to move the ball downfield, and injured his ankle on his only scramble of the night. He was able to practice through the pain all week, although it was the worst week of training camp he has had in the eyes of coach Rex Ryan.
As a result of those factors, Ryan announced that Mark Sanchez would again start for the Jets for their week two game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team then informed the world that Smith would not play in the game due to his injury. A clear-cut opportunity for Sanchez to secure the starting role for the season, all he needed was an efficient outing.
That did not happen. In fact, the opposite may have happened. Many experts believe that Smith made up ground in the race by not suiting up. Sanchez was that inconsistent.
Statistically speaking, Sanchez had an average night. Finishing the game 13 of 23 for 169 yards to go along with a touchdown and interception. His 76.2 quarterback rating was by no means elite, yet it was not dreadful either. If one just looked at the stat line, he delivered the average outing he needed to secure the job.
Coaches in the NFL can not simply look at the stat lines however, leave that to the fantasy football owners of the world. Come Monday when they examine the film from the game, Ryan and the rest of the coaching staff will see the up and down performance that has plagued the Jets Mark Sanchez era.
The game began with a bang. Sanchez looked downright perfect early, to the point where Smith had to be nervous he had lost the battle. Beginning 5 for 5 passing, Sanchez directed a beautiful drive down the field. Capping off the Jets’ march, the Sanchize delivered a perfect strike to tight end Jeff Cumberland for a 23 yard touchdown.
From there things took a turn for the worse. A red zone interception and a horribly mismanaged clock situation to end the half resulted in Sanchez being booed on his way to the locker room. The battle began to look more and more even once again.
The end of the half was especially ugly. With the Jets in the red zone and just seconds remaining on third and goal, Sanchez scrambled backwards in the pocket, throwing the ball away before being sacked. The problem was the clock struck 0 and the half expired. The Jets were not able to add the field goal to their lead that they would have been able to attempt on fourth down due to Mark holding onto the rock.
Mistakes like that are how Sanchez lost the support of the Jets fan base, he has to show an ability to improve on those mistakes and take better care of the ball if he wants to remain the starter for long. He still is leading in the Jets quarterback race, however Geno Smith is still very much alive. Only against Sanchez can you make up ground by not taking the field.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express