The New York Jets have one of the most hotly contested quarterback battles of the offseason between the embattled Mark Sanchez, and highly touted rookie Geno Smith. After one week of the preseason is in the books, it is time to once again delve into the race to start at quarterback on week one for the New York Jets.
Heading into the game, fans, players, and the quarterbacks themselves have spoken out about who should lead Gang Green when the real games kick off in September. The Jets locker room spoke out in June through center Nick Mangold, arguing that Mark Sanchez should be the team’s starter because he gives them the best chance to win this year.
Fans on the other hand have been calling for Sanchez’ head for years, and view Geno Smith as a savior to a franchise that has been stuck in rebuilding mode since Sanchez led the Jets to back to back AFC Championships during his first two seasons in the NFL. It does not take long to find a Mark Sanchez insult or Geno Smith compliment on social media. The fans want Smith to win this battle.
As far as the two quarterbacks go, Mark Sanchez has been the more outspoken of the two passers, saying that he earned his way into starting the first preseason game by outplaying Smith in training camp. “I think I earned the right to start this first game and we’ll see how it goes from there. But got to keep playing well to stay on the field, and that’s the plan,” he told reporters on Thursday.
It didn’t take long for the debate to become even more heated for the New York Jets. Taking on the Detroit Lions in the first preseason game of the season, Mark Sanchez won the right to start the game for his team. On the very first series he looked very much like the old Sanchize. On his team’s first possession of the new year, the new and improved Mark Sanchez through a pick six to rookie defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah. More on that later.
At that point it looked like Smith might have become the new front-runner without ever taking the field, however things became even murkier as the game went on.
Shrugging off the early struggles, Mark Sanchez was downright solid for the rest of his time on the field. Driving his team to the promised land to end the first quarter, the incumbent starter connected on a beautiful 26 yard touchdown on a seam route to tight end Jeff Cumberland.
Statistically speaking, Sanchez finished the game 10-13 for 125 yards, with the touchdown and interception. Not a bad day at the office.
When Geno Smith took his turn under center for the first time against live-game competition at the professional level, New York Jets fans across the country were on the edge of their seats with anticipation. An up and down camp that has shown the flashes of ability that made him one of the most talked about prospects of this year’s draft coming out of West Virginia, as well as the head scratching moments that come with any NFL rookie.
However Geno Smith’s night came to a quick end in his Jets debut. After completing 6 of 7 passes for 47 yards, Smith twisted his ankle and left the game after scrambling away from pressure. X-rays were negative, and NFL.com reported that the only message from the team was that he suffered an ankle injury.
Geno Smith said that “he was “a little sore” and was in “complete disbelief” at the time of the injury. But he said that he played “exceptionally well” and that he expected to be available when training camp resumes Sunday in Cortland, N.Y.” according to Ben Shipgel of the New York Times.
As far as his ‘exceptional’ performance, Smith did have the highest completion percentage of anyone on the team that night, however he didn’t stretch the defense with a deep passing game like Sanchez did on the touchdown. Smith’s scrambling ability showed through, however that came with the caveat that he is not a superhero and the injury risk that comes with a scrambler is not something he is immune to.
After round one of the preseason quarterback battle between Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez it is difficult to determine who won, the only takeaway that is for sure is that the Jets are going to have to take a few more weeks before announcing their decision.
Now back to that interception. Ezekiel Ansah showed that he could in fact be the answer for the Detroit Lions. Coming out of BYU, the rookie defensive end took no time in proving to the world that he belongs on the field at this level. On his very first series he got past a Pro Bowl tackle in D’Brickashaw Ferguson and positioned himself to intercept Mark Sanchez when he attempted to dump the ball off to a back.
As if that wasn’t enough he then returned the ball 14 yards for a touchdown. Lions fans have to be thrilled with his potential after that play.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express