The New York Jets announced earlier today on Twitter that Mark Sanchez will be the week two starting quarterback.
The decision seemed inevitable. After yesterday’s news that rookie Geno Smith, currently battling an ankle injury, had a “brutal” practice on Wednesday. Smith played with the first-team offense and threw three interceptions in 11-on-11 drills and another in 7-on-7 drills.
Entering training camp, Rex Ryan hoped one competitor would wow the coaching staff and wrest away the the starting gig. Unfortunately, preseason football’s current configuration will likely have more of an impact determining the winner than anticipated.
Smith only played three full series last Friday against the Lions before rolling his ankle scrambling out of the pocket. Several media reports have suggested he may sit out Saturday night against the Jaguars, all but eliminating him from the competition. Tomorrow is a scheduled off day for the team, and week three will be a dress rehearsal for opening day. Smith is simply running out of time to impress his coaches.
The young rookie played well in his first pro test. He demonstrated improved footwork, and a strong arm with a quick release. Before exiting the game, Smith completed 6-of-7 pass attempts for 47 yards.
Beat reporters attending training camp reported that Smith did not look comfortable moving on his balky ankle. If the injury is worse than initially indicated, running him early in the week at the expense of availability on Saturday is a head-scratcher. Toughness is a big deal in football, and no doubt his teammates and fans will take note of his willingness to play through an injury, but he needs game-speed reps too.
If the ankle improves, of course Smith could potentially reenter the battle with a strong performance on Saturday. Sanchez has played well, including an inspired touchdown drive against Detroit, but he hasn’t been perfect. The opening drive pick-six to rookie D-lineman Ezekiel Ansah reminded fans and coaches that Sanchez is still inconsistent. He can deliver strikes across the field when given time and an open primary receiver, but his decision-making still lags behind where it should be this far into his career.
Smith should get every opportunity to win the starting job, but practice and in-game reps are becoming sparse. He is however in an advantageous position — the same one Sanchez found himself in back in 2009. The front office, though they will never admit it, likely want Smith to win. New GM John Idzik needs his first draft to be a slam dunk, and nothing says “Boom shaka laka” like landing a franchise QB with your second round pick.